Grand Rapids to host digital town hall on policing

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The city of Grand Rapids invited the community to join leaders in a digital town hall Wednesday.

The digital town hall on policing in Grand Rapids will involve plans for improving policing and discussion on earlier suggestions from residents and other stakeholders.

The event will be streamed live from 5-7 p.m. on the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability’s Facebook page and the city’s YouTube channel and will be streamed live in Spanish.

The panelists will be City Manager Mark Washington, Police Chief Eric Payne and Director of Oversight and Public Accountability Brandon Davis.

The digital town hall will include brief updates on actions taken and plans to eliminate bias and structural racism from policy and practices.

City leaders are seeking community input regarding community-police relations with a focus on the following areas: strategies for police reform, social determinants in criminal justice and increasing transparency and accountability.

Community members are encouraged to provide comments and innovative ideas to help inform the next steps. Comments and questions can be made by calling 311 or (616) 456-3000. Spanish interpretation will be available.

The Office of Oversight and Public Accountability outlined the following action steps during a virtual update last week:

  • The OPA will increase accountability by reviewing and releasing a comprehensive report and recommendations regarding the status of all prior community-police relations studies, recommendations and commitments. This report will be released within the next 30 days.
  • A community police advisory council also is being created.
  • OPA and Office of Equity and Engagement will host events led by subject matter experts regarding processing and healing from trauma and vicarious trauma related to racism and use of force. Dates will be released early next week.
  • OPA will create a safety and accountability ambassador program designed to train and equip community with the tools to promote safety and accountability.
  • OPA and OEE will partner with community groups to identify and share strategies and learning opportunities for those who want to support justice and equity and to ally with communities of color.
  • OPA will work with the community to review GRPD policies and practices with a focus on equity and innovation and recommend improvements.
  • OEE will increase and enhance city staff training on equity, justice, implicit bias and other related topics.
  • OPA will complete a strategic plan and implement additional strategies to increase restorative justice programming, elevating community voice and public safety engagement.
  • OEE, OPA, the Economic Development Department and the Office of Our Community’s Children will work with the business community to increase summer job opportunities for youth.

Since the virtual update, city leaders have received additional feedback from community members and organizations about possible ways to improve policing. Requested actions to be discussed at the town hall include:

  • Ban chokeholds
  • Require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
  • Require officers to give a verbal warning in all situations before using deadly force
  • Require officers to exhaust all other alternatives, including non-force and less-lethal force options, before resorting to deadly force
  • Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
  • Ban officers from shooting at moving vehicles in all cases, which is regarded as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic
  • Establish a force continuum that restricts the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations and creates clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic
  • Require comprehensive reporting
  • Make structural changes to the Grand Rapids Police Department to address concerns raised in the deployment study and 21st Century Policing reports
  • Open public meetings for labor negotiations
  • Ongoing input and support from the community for the plan, strategies and tactics of GRPD
  • Expanded funding for OPA
  • Expanded power for the Civilian Appeal Board
  • Settlement with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights on its ongoing investigation into the patterns and practices of GRPD
  • Redirect funding from GRPD toward economic development, housing and other community programs

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