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More public money for policing: Private company will produce recruitment videos for the GRPD

October 18, 2022

On Tuesday, Grand Rapids City Officials adopted a resolution to pay Epic Productions LLC up to $200,000 to provide digital recruitment services for the Grand Rapids Police Department.

This resolution came out of the Fiscal Committee and can be read in their October 18 Meeting Agenda, pages 7 – 10. According to the Fiscal Committee Agenda for October 18, it states: 

The recommended investment would evolve the recruiting strategy in a way that is consistent with the City’s Strategic Plan and strategic communication plan. It will also assist in accelerating recruiting to enable the department to achieve authorized staffing by balancing on-going recruiting with future retirements. This investment will enable us to connect with a new generation of candidates, seek a larger and more diverse candidate pool and focus on students of key institutions. Today’s job seekers rank social and professional networks as the most useful job search resource. Updating our digital platform will improve our recruiting and community engagement efforts. 

What this means is that the City of Grand Rapids will use $200,000 of public money to pay Epic Productions LLC to make some videos, plus create and maintain a website for the primary purpose of recruiting new people to join the GRPD. 

Lack of community trust has led to a shortage of cops

In July of 2020, the New York Times reported on a Gallup poll, stating:

For the first time in its 27 years of measuring attitudes toward the police, Gallup found that a majority of American adults do not trust law enforcement.

This lack of trust in cops by Americans was further explored in a Pew Research video, which was based on a survey done at the beginning of 2022, where people were asked about their view of cops in 2020 and 2021. You can view the video survey here, regarding public trust and the police in the US.

This growing lack of trust in Americans, particularly of BIPOC Americans, has led to a shortage in recruiting and retaining cops in police departments all across the US. This is why the 2023 Michigan State Budget, has allocated millions for police retention and recruitment.

It is in this context that the City of Grand Rapids has decided to spend up to $200,000 to have Epic Productions LLC makes videos and a website to recruit more people to join the GRPD. What is instructive about the resolution to spend $200,000 of public money, was not just the decision to hire Epic Productions LLC, but the information about all of the time spent by the GRPD currently on recruiting. Here is what the resolution had to say about what the GRPD has done in the past year: 

  • This year alone, the department participated and shared recruitment information at 100 community events, which included partnering with Seeds of Promise, Dream Center, Pastors Picnics & Police, the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association. Recruiters also attended special events like Rock the Block, the Polish, Hispanic and Glimpse of Africa Festivals. 
  • Held open houses and pop-up recruiting events in all areas of the city. 
  • Forty-seven academy, college and university visits including Wayne County Regional Police Academy, Lake Superior State, Delta College Police Academy, Northern Michigan University, Oakland Community College, Ferris State University, Macomb Community College, and Mott Community College. 
  • Partnerships with Kent County Technical Center, JROTC, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley University where GPRD employees mentor and instruct students interested in criminal justice. 
  • Continued connections with local military branches throughout the State of Michigan.
  • Focus on the grow-our-own progression of Police Explorers, Youth Police Academy, up to and including Police Interns. Over time, the Police Explorers program has generated six police officers with another seven in the police intern pipeline. Recent recruitment for police interns has been strong with thirty-seven applications and is expected to produce a diverse class of eight new interns. Additionally, eight former interns have been hired as police officers in the last two years. 
  • Home-grown online recruiting fairs did not produce desired results but may be attempted again in a revised format. 
  • Continued exploration of a focus on recruiting by building partnerships with multi-cultural fraternities and college/university offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

It seems that the GRPD spends a great deal of time trying to convince people to join the police force. It is hard to completely determine how many hours all of the above items include, how many members of the GRPD were involved and how much money all of their current efforts cost taxpayers, but it seems substantial to this writer. However, Grand Rapids City Officials don’t think that all of their current recruiting efforts are enough, thus they will spend $200,000 of taxpayer money for more recruiting purposes.

Why Epic Productions LLC?

Fiscal Committee document from 10/18 cites some reasons why the City of Grand Rapids decided to contract with Epic Productions LLC. If one spends any amount of time on the Epic Productions LLC website, you can see that there are several recommendations from other police departments across the country.  In fact, their website features many of the police recruiting videos they have produced for other departments, along with a YouTube channel page with a section devoted exclusively to recruitment of cops.

Lastly, it is important to acknowledge what Police Chief Winstrom has to say about the new website that Epic Productions LLC will be creating. Winstrom states: 

The new platform can also play a vital role in how the community views the police department and how members of the department view themselves. It can also be beneficial in how we disseminate information about public safety, gather information about crime, and improve community relations. 

Based on these comments by Chief Winstrom, it seems that Grand Rapids taxpayers will give $200,000 to Epic Productions LLC so that the GRPD can use the platform as a public relations toolhow the community views the GRPD, a propaganda tool – how to get a controlled narrative out about the GRPD, engage in counter-insurgency tacticsgather information about criminal behavior, and to improve community relations, which means they want to win back the public trust. 

Look, spending taxpayer money to con us into thinking that cops actually prevent crime is a meaningless exercise. Instead, why doesn’t the GRPD stop justifying their repressive activities, their disproportionate monitoring of Black, Brown and poor white neighborhoods, their defense of an ex-cop who murdered Patrick Lyoya and their targeting of activists who are demanding Justice4Patrick and the defunding of the GRPD. 

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