Street Talk: Asleep at the wheel


A study involving traffic stop tendencies of Grand Rapids officers has revealed black motorists are twice as likely as non-black drivers to be stopped by police within the city limits. The study also revealed Hispanic drivers were stopped more often in certain areas of the community, contrasted with white and female drivers who did not experience disparate treatment.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom called the results of the study "very troubling" and said the city would not ignore its findings.

"We own this," he said.

Completed independently by Lamberth Consulting, the city ordered the study last year in line with its 2015 12-Point Plan to Strengthen Community and Police Relations. The study provides officials with a review of the Grand Rapids Police Department's operational practices from 2013-15.

In addition to the traffic stop disparity, black drivers were "far more" likely to be searched upon being stopped than non-black motorists, despite no significant difference in the likelihood of contraband being found.

Lamberth offered a dozen recommendations to the city in correcting the racial disparities outlined in the report, including an analysis of GRPD's stop and search data for 2016, continuing to analyze and publicly release stop and search data over the next four years, and evaluation of field training officers and their practices.

Sundstrom said the city will put a strong emphasis on responding to the report.

"In addition to adopting many of the recommendations made in the report, we will also begin a critical review of the Police Department’s policing practices to eliminate racial bias,” he said.

The full, 100-page report is available at the city website,

Reaching the summit

Issues are coming to a head in West Michigan.

Whether it’s economic development or customer service, it seems “summits” are the way to address these topics.

Regardless of industry or audience, providing a customer experience that is both valuable and exceeds service expectations remains a top priority in business. While the introduction of new technologies continues to enhance the customer service experience, there is much to be said for genuine, face-to-face interaction that is personalized and solution-oriented.

As a business leader, what tools and training have you provided your team to champion the art of difficult conversations? A study released by NewVoiceMedia revealed a loss of more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service. If you do not fall in the 72 percent of businesses putting customer experience improvements at the top of their priority list, 2017 is the year to start.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce on May 23 is hosting the second installment of its Summit Up! Series. This one is called Small Business: The Art of Giving Great Service.

For Zingerman’s Delicatessen of Ann Arbor, the art of giving great service started with a sandwich. Opened in 1982, the deli quickly became a daily drop-in for food lovers. It was the customer service experience, however, that turned strangers into regulars.

Zingerman’s capitalized on its customer service success to create ZingTrain, the brand’s training arm.

The ZingTrain team will coach attendees on how to appropriately and successfully respond to customer complaints through hands-on learning tools, including workbooks, class materials and role playing. Cost of the event is $200 for chamber members and $400 for nonmembers.

Extending beyond scripted responses and mundane step-by-step processes, ZingTrain is designed to recognize and validate the customer’s experience while collecting information that can later be considered by leaders to implement organizational change.

Registration is available at

Closer to the lakeshore, Muskegon County is putting on a summit of its own.

The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and Muskegon Area First are organizing a new event called the Muskegon County Economic Summit.

The event focuses on gathering key decision-makers of local government and businesses to discuss issues related to the Muskegon Lake port, infrastructure projects, community safety, transportation, cost of government and more.

“The dynamics around our local economy are changing rapidly,” said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “This summit is designed to get our local decision-makers up to speed on topics that impact our residents.” In addition, The Economic Summit will provide networking opportunities among community leaders.

The event is scheduled for May 12, and Larsen said nine presenters have agreed to participate. More may be included before the program.

Those scheduled to speak are Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron; DJ Hilson, Muskegon County; Sam Janson, city of North Muskegon; Erin Kuhn, West Michigan Shoreline Development Regional Commission; Mike Meyers, Norton Shores; Mayor Gary Nelund, Norton Shores; Frank Peterson, city of Muskegon; Mike Poulin, Muskegon County sheriff; and Chris Witham, mayor of North Muskegon.

The Muskegon County Economic Summit will take place from 8 a.m.-noon at the Muskegon Innovation Hub. Admission is $25 per person and online registration is available at

A new bard

The city of Grand Rapids named a wordsmith with a passion for mental health and racial awareness to the role of poet laureate.

The Grand Rapids Poet Laureate Selection Committee appointed Marcel “Fable” Price as poet laureate of the greater Grand Rapids area for a three-year term starting today (April 24).

Committee members include past poet laureates L.S. Klatt, Linda Nemec Foster, Patricia Clark, Rodney Torreson and David Cope.

The poet laureate is an ambassador for poetry, creating programs and projects to foster the writing and reading of poetry by the public.

Price, also known as Fable the Poet, is a writer, teaching artist, performer and motivational speaker. He is the author of “Adrift in a Sea of M&M’s,” a collection of poems that navigates through mixed race issues and mental disorders.

“I am a poet for the people, all people,” Price said. “I am using many of our city’s flagship events, organizations and most premier artists to bring poetry to the masses. In my role as poet laureate, I will continue to do so but aiming higher and further than before.”

Price tours nationally and works extensively with youth. He is an official partner of Mental Health America and is an advocate for the importance of mental health awareness among children and teens.

He is known for his interactive readings and performances and is a member of The Diatribe, a group of wordsmiths, rappers, hip-hop artists, poets and storytellers who perform in Grand Rapids.

Members include Azizi Jasper, Mitch Burns, Stephen Gren, Venson Dix, G. Foster and Duke Greene.

Price will begin his three-year term at an event at 5:30 p.m. today at the Grand Rapids Public Library Main Branch, 111 Library St. NE. The event will honor outgoing poet laureate L.S. Klatt and welcome Price. It will include a poetry reading featuring KFG, Rachel Gleason, G. Foster II, aka AutoPilot, and Kyd Kane. DJ Dean Martian will perform.

The Grand Rapids Public Library runs the Grand Rapids Poet Laureate Program, and it is funded through a grant from the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation and the Dyer-Ives Foundation Poetry Fund.

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