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April 9, 2023

(This article was written and submitted by Kellan Martin.)

The City of Grand Rapids has awarded a municipal auction contract to Action Target of Provo, Utah for a Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) practice range upgrade. The contract was voted on by the City Commission on February 21st, 2023 and officially awarded on March 9th, 2023. The contract awards a total of $167,595 to Action Target for “comprehensive upgrade[s]” to the 20-yard target range currently utilized by the GRPD.

The funds for this project were obtained through the city’s Capital Improvement Fund, a tax-funded account the City of Grand Rapids uses to make payments for maintenance and updates on city-owned assets. Action Target is a large-sized range manufacturer that, between 2000 to 2008, was awarded $42.9 million in US government contracts, and in 2004 built training facilities for the US and other national forces occupying Iraq.

In the wake of the execution of Patrick Lyoya by former GRPD officer Christopher Schurr, the City of Grand Rapids chose Action Target to install a “Fixed Turning Target System” that Tony Wojciakowski, a Buyer in the Purchasing Department of Grand Rapids writes, “…[provides] crucial training when designing courses around high stress, split-second decision making.”

City documents do not answer the question of how this development in GRPD’s shooting range will make officers choose better decisions outside of a scenario where police are in the action of shooting at someone. This further “tacticalization” of police that companies like Action Target exploit is an extension of the general trend of law enforcement militarization in the United States, and is a widely documented issue that presents itself in the form of weapons, gear, policies, and protocols. 

Within the last three years, police spending nationwide has increased under federal efforts to hire more officers and to provide them with a higher level of training. What is missing from official statements from the Biden administration especially is any critical thought towards the contradictions formed from this official thought process. Officials do not want to expose the connection that this recent injection of police funding and support came into existence after calls of justice during social unrest following murders of unarmed civilians by the police such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Patrick Lyoya, Tyre Nichols, and many more. 

In other words, the current struggle against police brutality was only possible because of government policies acting in the interests of the property owning class that has built the capitalist US system, and institutionalized racism within it. The state violence coming out of these conscious decisions to militarize the police and allow for extrajudicial killings citizens is now being used as a narrative focal point for those in power to introduce the need for more funding and “training” of the police as a solution. But this “solution” is merely an extension of the overall issue of how conditions got to where they were in the first place.

The police reforms currently being put in place by the United States government, in Biden’s words, are “… to fund the police. Fund them with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.” But that begs multiple questions. First, what kind of further protection will a shooting range upgrade bring our communities in Grand Rapids? And second; exactly which community in Grand Rapids needed to be protected from Patrick Lyoya to the point where GRPD officer Christopher Schurr shot Patrick in the back of the head?


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