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More evidence that the Defund the GRPD movement is an effective campaign

December 30, 2020

On Monday, we posted a story about the new online efforts of the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association (GRPOA) to lobby city officials to not Defund the GRPD.

In response to that post a couple of GRIID supporters said they saw a billboard using the same visual theme as the online GRPOA campaign to oppose defunding the GRPD. Located on US 131 South, there is this billboard shown above, that is just south of Franklin St.

Using the phrase, We’re Calling for Backup, as clever as it may seem, is misleading. The Grand Rapids Police Department is funded with public tax money from people who reside in Grand Rapids. As we wrote in a post this past summer, the GRPD, along with several elected officials put forth a ballot proposal to change the City Charter to make the police department’s budget a full third of the entire city budget. This campaign took place just months after the federal government adopted what is referred as the Crime Bill, which contributed significantly to mass incarceration in the US.

Since that 1995 campaign to solidify an increase in funding for the GRPD, the actual funding has fluctuated between 36% and 39% of the City’s over all budget. The GRPD billboard is misleading because the public already has the backs of the police, because the public pays their salary. It is only because there is greater scrutiny by the public of the GRPD, that the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association has pushed back against the significant call for a decrease in the police budget. The irony is, that even those who are part of the Defund the GRPD campaign, are contributing to the police department’s budget, if they pay city taxes. Many of those who are calling for Defunding also recognize that they have a right to call for a reduction or outright defunding of the police budget, which they have been doing since June. However, the City Manager (someone who is not elected) stepped in and put a stop to any vote that could defund the GRPD back in July, thus demonstrating that the public has no say about how their tax dollars are used in this city.

While getting a picture of the GRPOA billboard, we spotted a second billboard, which had a more direct attack on the call for defunding the GRPD. Just south of Burton St on US 131, on the east side of the highway, there is this billboard pictured here, which says, Oppose Defunding Police, with the tag line below that says, Brothers in Blue GR. We could find no reference to Brothers in Blue GR, but it is clear that another group is paying for this billboard.

What is instructive about the GRPOA campaign to oppose defunding is that they are spending significant money on a website and billboards. This is in sharp contrast to DeFund the GRPD, which has raised money is recent months to buy refrigerator magnets that provides alternatives to calling the GRPD when there is a conflict, plus they purchased children’s books to give away, specifically in the Black community, just before the holidays.

One thing for sure is that the campaign to Defund the GRPD is effective. Why else would the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association spend so much money and effort to oppose the public call for Defunding the GRPD.

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