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The GRPD continues to create their own narrative, while the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association blocks even the mildest of reforms

March 24, 2021

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids Police Department presented another update to their 2020 Strategic Plan. We have been critiquing this strategic plan since it was first drafted last August and more recently in late February.

The updated report on the GRPD Strategic Plan was presented on Tuesday during the Public Safety meeting at 3pm. The Public Safety Committee is currently made up of several Grand Rapids City Commissioners and only one resident, Ed Kettle. Kettle, as we have reported in the past, is an apologist for the GRPD and created the Facebook group Friends of the GRPD, which has not been active for the past 18 months.

The GRPD Strategic Plan update presentation on Tuesday, also came with a powerpoint, which you can find here.

This presentation began with a couple of slides that wanted to make the point that the GRPD is understaffed, a point that was accentuated by a graph on page 3 of the powerpoint. Beginning on page 4, the presentation shifts to focus on how the GRPD has been making personnel adjustments based on the findings of the Hillard-Heintze study that was done in 2019. What is instructive about what the GRPD presents here is the fact that they omitted one of the major findings from the study which made clear that most calls to the GRPD are non-emergency calls and could be responded to by non-police. Here is the larger quote from the Hillard-Heintze study about the non-emergency calls, which we reported on in 2019.

most calls are not for emergency police services, such as immediate physical danger, but rather are service oriented. Seventy percent of calls for service in 2018 were categorized as “low priority.” For example, the most common calls for service included 4,982 for property damage-only traffic crashes and 4,050 calls for burglar alarms, most of which are false. On average, officers spend almost an hour on scene resolving calls for service, so a significant amount of patrol time is spent addressing non-emergency calls. This evolving demand for a variety of services from law enforcement is a trend that we see nationally, and many communities continue to struggle with identifying what, when and how they want police services delivered. This is of concern for many municipalities as police budgets are often the largest component of municipal expenditures.”

The GRPD presentation on Tuesday, acknowledges the need to shift non-emergency calls to what they refer to as “non-sworn employees.” (Page 6) However, nowhere does the GRPD acknowledge that they could cut police staff significantly, since most calls are non-emergency.

Page 7 of the presentation then talks about the shift from Community Based Policing to Neighborhood Based Policing. However, the GRPD never defines what they mean by either Community or Neighborhood based policing, along with the fact that they do not differentiate the two. Here is what the City of Grand Rapids says about the shift from Community to Neighborhood based policing:

The move to this new policing philosophy was first identified by the department as a way to provide both traditional and community policing services with available resources. Through many listening sessions the City also heard that residents expressed a desire to see “their” community service officer more often and engaged in more non-enforcement, positive contacts. This new neighborhood policing model could also allow an assigned officer to more closely adapt and serve the unique needs and wants of each neighborhood.

Regardless of what model the GRPD says it is using, we have to come to terms with the historical and contemporary function of policing, which we wrote about last July in an article entitled, Coming to terms with the function of policing in the US and in Grand Rapids, Part I and Part II. In both of these article we identify that the primary function of policing is intelligence gathering, population management and counterinsurgency, which often means to repress those who believe that the state has failed them.

Pages 8 – 10 of the GRPD’s Strategic Plan update was centered around his best to utilize cops without reducing their numbers, along with some fluffy language around “responding to the needs of the community.”

On pages 11 and 12, we read that the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association (GRPOA) filed a grievance against the City to make sure that the City could not shift current police functions to non-cops, as you can see in the slide here below.

So, you can see that the GRPD union is resistant to even the mild reformist elements of the GRPD Strategic Plan, which came about as a direct result of the national uprising against policing after a cop publicly lynched George Floyd and after the May 30th uprising in Grand Rapids. The GRPD union has demonstrated over and over again that they will not tolerate any form of community accountability, which we have documented in recent years:

The final page of the presentation is devoted to community feedback, with an emphasis on the use of the taxpayer funded Flashvote survey, which recently centered on the GRPD. The FlashVote survey about the GRPD is a waste of public funds. The number of participants in the City was 579, with a mix of responses. However, the questions asked were weak, vague and did not frame issues around how policing is done in this city and which communities are disproportionately harmed. Last summer there were over 3,000 communications with the City of GR to Defund the GRPD, 5 times the amount that this survey received, yet the City Manager and the City Attorney prevented the City Commission from voting on defunding. This FlashVote only re-enforces the fact that the City will not fundamentally do anything to reduced the GRPD’s budget, because City officials overwhelmingly support the function of the GRPD, which is to protect White Supremacy and the Capitalist Class interests in this community! 

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