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Misinformation and Copaganda: Why Johnny Brann Sr and Voice for the Badge are full of shit!

August 19, 2021

Over the past several years the local group, Voice for the Badge, has made it clear that they will oppose any individual or community based group that is critical of the GRPD. Voice for the Badge first showed up at City Commission meetings when members of the Black community, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE began to challenge the actions of the GRPD and even called for Captain VanderKooi to be fired for contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), just because the person was latinx.

In just the past year, Voice for the Badge has complained every time people in the community have called for defunding the GRPD. Not only have they complained when the community calls for defunding the GRPD, Voice for the Badge has made it clear that they are in opposition to the Office of Public Accountability and most of the City officials because they do not worship the GRPD.

Voice for the Badge is not a well organized entity, which relies primarily on their founder, Johnny Brann Sr. In fact, Mr. Brann is the only person who seems to make posts on their Facebook page. This actually makes it easier for those of us who are calling for the GRPD to be defunded, since Mr. Brann doesn’t have a very good analysis of policing, but it’s also because he regularly engages in disseminating misinformation on the VFB Facebook page.

For example, here is what Johnny Brann Sr. posted this past Tuesday, August 17th:

GRPD in the news again!!!  Negative of course.

Media – How bout taking a week off and let our men and women in Blue take a breather.  Then you can start back up reporting the negatives-like you normally do. If the media will ever report the other side-G.R. citizens would be flabbergasted with the seriousness of the issues in regards  to  our city being less safe for our citizens and our –GRPD due to many factors.

Make no mistake about it our city is currently less safe and it’s  going to get worse.

Thank you,

Johnny  Brann Sr

There are several things about this post that just are not based in fact, which we will get to. However, let’s start with the GRPD being in the news again. This reference is to a few news agencies highlighting a virtual public forum that the Grand Rapids Chapter of the NAACP had hosted, a forum that was questioning the efficacy of the GRPD wanting to use drones for surveillance in the city. 

The NAACP forum was fundamentally about accountability and to demand that the public have more say on policing, in this case the GRPD’s use of technology. However, for Johnny Brann Sr. it is unacceptable to question the motives of the GRPD, since cops are not only heroes, but they “keep the rest of us safe.” Now, the news coverage in this case was not negative, it was actually a story that demonstrates that people in this city want to be engaged in the democratic process and want more accountability for how their tax dollars are being used. The GRPD gets their budget from Grand Rapids taxpayers, therefore those who live in this community have a duty and a right to question how the GRPD spends their money.

Johnny Brann Sr. doesn’t stop with just this one news story, he goes on to make the claim that news reporting is always negative when covering the GRPD. Maybe this message sells to people who don’t believe in critical thinking, but Johnny Brann Sr’s statement just isn’t based in fact. All one has to do is to look at any given week and you will see plenty of stories that rely exclusively on information given to the news media that comes directly from the GRPD. Every story that has to do with an arrest, a recent shooting, a breaking and entering violation or a high speed chase, are all stories that are based on what the Grand Rapids Police Department shares with the local news agencies. In addition, those stories never question the information coming from the GRPD, nor do those stories seek out community sources that are independent of the GRPD, thus the steady stream of crime stories essentially makes the GRPD the arbiters of truth.

On top of all of the crime-based news that relies on information from the GRPD, there are also regular stories about members of the GRPD who are doing work that is not related to crime, but are purely feel good stories that we often refer to as Copaganda. For example, a few weeks ago there was a story about a GRPD officer who has been helping teenagers who are in the process of getting a driver’s license. These kinds of Copaganda stories are often picked up by local news agencies, plus they are disseminated through various forms of social media.

So basically, Johnny Brann Sr. is full of shit with his Facebook pronouncements. The posts made on the Voice for the Badge page are never supported with facts or data, and often rely on claims that essentially act as misinformation. 

Take for instance, the last sentence in the VFB post we shared above, which says:

Make no mistake about it our city is currently less safe and it’s  going to get worse. There is no data to support the claim that the city isn’t safe, nor that it is going to get much worse. However, facts and data aren’t necessary, especially if your goal is to get people to blindly believe one of the worst propaganda claims in this country, which says that police departments exist to “protect and to serve.”  

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