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GRPD funding sources, police collaborators and the institutionalization of violence workers in Grand Rapids

July 12, 2022

At yesterday’s Fiscal Committee and later during the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, there were numerous GRPD funding items that were approved, as you can see from the July 12 Fiscal Committee Agenda packet.

There are a total of 17 items on the Fiscal Committee Agenda for July 12, with nearly half of them involving the Grand Rapids Police Department. While the issue of GRPD funding was the focus of much debate leading up to the 2023 Grand Rapids City Budget approval, we tend to lose focus on police funding for the rest of the year. Some of these funding items are not large sums of money, but the point of looking at these funding items is that the GRPD is woven in to so many aspects of Grand Rapids society, including specific partnerships with community entities, often without public knowledge. Lastly, it is important that we re-name what police officers are in contemporary America. We prefer to identify cops as violence workers, which is a term that David Correia and Tyler Wall  use in their important book, Violent Order: Essays on the Nature of Police. 

The first item from the Fiscal Committee agenda that involves the GRPD is item #2, involving $84,000 contract for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth. The GRPD has had a long standing relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, and is in charge of their Drive for Success Program. The question we should ask ourselves is why is the GRPD involved in a program to teach youth how to drive? Isn’t this a service that could be done by an entity that is not involved in population management and the hyper-policing of BIPOC and poor communities? The irony is, that a disproportionate number of youth who attend the Boys & Girls Clubs are BIPOC youth, which means they will be more likely to be stopped by the GRPD when they are old enough to drive, based on all the recent traffic stop reports. 

The second item from the Fiscal Committee agenda that involves the GRPD is a $60,000 contact going to the GRPD to provide “services” to the Children’s Assessment Center, d.b.a. the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County. The GRPD, “Detective Bureau provides ongoing expert multidisciplinary investigations of complaints regarding sexual abuse of children.” Again, is it appropriate to have violence workers be involved in investigating sexual abuse of children?

The third item from the Fiscal Committee agenda that involves the GRPD is a contract for $28,750 for TacLogix, Inc. to provide three train-the-trainer training sessions over a two-day period for the GRPD. This training will accelerate the progress of change and will be in addition to the $150,000 allocated for community informed training in the OPA budget, according to the narrative provided in the Fiscal Committee packet. There is no explanation of what TacLogix, Inc. does and who they are. TacLogix does a variety of trainings, which you can find here, and their team is mostly made up of people who have worked in law enforcement at the federal, state and local level. This means that the trainings for the GRPD offered by TacLogix are insular, since it is cops talking to cops, which offers very little opportunity to fundamentally alter or question the function of policing in Grand Rapids.

The fourth item from the Fiscal Committee agenda that involves the GRPD is a $92,200 contract with GVSU Police Academy for new GRPD recruits. The GVSU Police Academy website says their faculty are law enforcement experts, with years of law enforcement experience. Of course, the description does include details of what this expertise is, but more importantly its people who have been violence workers training a new generation of violence workers.

The fifth item from the Fiscal Committee agenda involves policing, but not directly the GRPD. The City has a contract for $65,000 with four Uptown business districts: Eastown, East Hills, East Fulton, and Wealthy Street. Part of that contract is to remove flyers or “handbills” from the area – often political or community-based in nature, along with the removal of graffiti. These are both forms of censorship, with flyers/handbill removal being a low cost way for people to share information on the street level with the public. Graffiti is also often an expressive/artistic form meant to communicate ideas or feelings about the state of the world. What really is the difference between street graffiti and commissioned art work or murals that Grand Rapids seems so fond of? 

The sixth item from the Fiscal Committee agenda involves policing or the GRPD is a Salary Ordinance for Employees represented by the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, specifically Crime Scene Technician/Latent Print Examiner/Police Intern Unit. Crime Scene Technicians, Latent Print Examiners and Police Interns will all be receiving an increase in wages/salary, based on a contractual agreement between the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association. This agreement went into effect on July 1st of 2022 for an increase in wages/salary, which will again be increased on July 1st of 2023. The Crime Scene Technicians and Latent Print Examiners salaries range from $57,000 to $81,000 a year in 2022 and will then go up to $58,000 to $83,000 in 2023. Do you think these same salary increases are happening for the City employees? Also, what does this say about how we value violence workers in this society over care workers?

The seventh item from the Fiscal Committee agenda involves policing or the GRPD is the Bid List Resolution, which involves numerous items. One specific item is for bicycles for the GRPD, specifically Volcanic bikes. The City had a contract with Freewheeler Inc. for the not-to-exceed amount of $35,179 for 20 bicycles. Freewheeler Inc is facing supply chain issues, so the GRPD will be looking for other bids for 20 bicycles that will cost the public no more than $36,000. This means that the GRPD will spend $1800 on each of the 20 bikes they plan to purchase. 

The last item that includes information from the Fiscal Committee packet regarding violence workers, aka the GRPD, is under the heading, Travel & Funds Report through May 2022. In this section there are itemized public funds to various City Departments and next to the section that says police, it reads: 

  • Contract Serv-Training $112,461.40
  • Professional Development $11,871.25
  • Conferences & Travel $190,301.33
  • Local Business Expense $694.95
  • Food-Beverage $12,502.64

Again, these numbers don’t add up to large amounts, especially considering how large the GRPD total budget is. However, it makes you wonder what kind of Professional Development these violence workers are receiving, how many conferences they attend and what is the benefit to the community, along a fair amount of money for food and beverages. Is the public paying for break room food, vending machines, meals, pizza and donut orders? How about some god damn transparency for once!

As you can see from all the items that were in Fiscal Committee packet, since approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission, there are numerous funding streams for the GRPD, which only perpetuates the institutionalization of this system of oppression and their violence workers known as police officers.

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