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Request for GRPD Transparency on all Equipment & Weaponry

November 10, 2021

On Tuesday, I sent a letter to City Manager Mark Washington, Mayor Bliss and the six City Commissioners. The letter, included below, is requesting that the GRPD make public all the equipment and weaponry they have at their disposal. 

The motivation for my request is fold. First, I believe that since people who reside in this city pay taxes, they have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. Second, I believe that the public should be aware of the types of equipment and weaponry the GRPD possess, since it could be used against them someday. Lastly, I think it is important to acknowledge that many people – activists and particularly BIPOC and Queer residents – have directly experienced the use of equipment and weaponry against them in recent years. 

Now, I do not expect any response to this letter, since many of us in this community who communicate with City Officials on a regular basis, rarely receive responses from those who claim to serve us. The continued failure to practice basic aspects of democracy, such as communication, further demonstrates that City officials would rather not confront systemic injustice in this community, which ultimately makes them complicit in the systemic injustices many of us are attempting to dismantle. 

Here is the letter I sent on Tuesday, November 9th:

After searching the Grand Rapids Police Department section and the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, I was unable to find information on the equipment and weaponry that the GRPD has available for use.

In the interest of transparency, the public has a right to know the different types of equipment and weaponry that the GRPD has access to, along with the quantity of each. The public has a right to know this because, 1) the public pays for it all equipment & weaponry, and 2) the public should be aware of the kinds of equipment or weaponry that may be used against them.

I am requesting that the City of Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability make this information public and accessible on the City of Grand Rapids webpage. This information should be easy to find and easy to navigate.

In addition, the public has a right to know if the GRPD is using any equipment or weaponry that has previously been used by or purchased through the US Department of Defense, items that would be considered military surplus

I am asking for the following information:

Equipment

  • Types of vehicles the GRPD has and the quantity of each type, including SWAT vehicles and other tactical vehicles.
  • Types of protective gear used by police officers, such as helmets, bulletproof vests, etc, along with quantity of each type.
  • Types of surveillance equipment, including cameras, scanners, radar detection, drones, video editing, computers, and any communication devices used while on patrol, along with the quantity of each type.
  • Types of bicycles and exercise equipment, along with quantity of each type.
  • Data storage, whether we are talking about hard drives, thumb drives, etc. and the quantity of each.

Weaponry

  • Types of firearms that the GRPD has available, including pistols, rifles and any other type, along with the quantity of each.
  • Types of weaponry that GRPD officers generally carry, such as pepper spray, tasers, clubs/night sticks, handcuffs, zip ties, mace spray, and any additional weapons, along with the quantity of each.
  • Crowd Control weapons, such as tear gas canisters, tear gas launchers, stun guns, rubber bullets, water canons, flashing canisters, concussion grenades, etc, along with the quantity of each.
  • How many police dogs does the GRPD have at their disposal, which also can be used as weapons against civilians.

I’m sure that there are items not mentioned, which underscores the point that the public does not even know what equipment and weaponry uses or is available to use if they chose to use it.

It would seem that this information is likely to already be part of the GRPD’s inventory, thus readily available in a spreadsheet or in other formats. 

Please make this information available immediately, as the public has a right to know what kind of equipment and weaponry can be used against them.

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