The Rapidian

Members of police task force set to engage public in policy and procedure meeting

The task force’s sixth meeting will address police and community relations during presentation and roundtable discussions.
Grand Rapids Public Library. Photo courtesy of Rapidian Flickr user "rachel"

Grand Rapids Public Library. Photo courtesy of Rapidian Flickr user "rachel"

To attend

The event will be held from 7 – 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7 at Grand Rapids Public Library, 111 Library St. NE.

On Wednesday, March 7, the Grand Rapids “Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force” will meet for its second quarterly public meeting to report on any policy/procedure changes in the Grand Rapids Police Department. Members of the task force will meet with attendees in the Grand Rapids Public Library in roundtable discussions to gauge community input.

Steve Guitar, communications coordinator for the city of Grand Rapids, said the purpose of the meeting is to build trust between the community and police. He said the community asked for a way to review police department policy and procedures, and the meetings serve as one way to do that.

He hopes that everyone in the community is interested.

“We certainly are trying to reach out to all corners of the community and we want people to be engaged and active and participate in this procedure and policy review,” he said.

The task force was established in May 2017 by the Grand Rapids City Commission to ensure the police department’s policies and procedures result in equitable outcomes for everybody, according to Guitar.

The presentation the task force will present will address the public on how the department's policies and procedures “enable effective law enforcement, respect the rights and dignity of all residents, and follow nationwide best practices," Guitar said.

The presentation will last one hour, followed by a 30-minute session of roundtable discussions between task force members and attendees to give community input.

A board member of the Equity PAC, Russell Olmsted, said the short amount of time allotted to discussions between residents and task force members is not enough to address the various issues that he said are present. He is displeased with the way the meetings are organized, and would like more time for the public to have dialogue with task force members.

“This task force (is) about listening to the portions of our community who are disproportionately adversely affected by how the GRPD is doing its job. And changing the policies and practices that are causing those outcomes. In order to do that you must first empower those voices to be heard, listen to them, hear their concerns and suggestions, and act accordingly. That is not achievable in 30 minutes,” Olmsted said.

Grand Rapids Chief of Police David Rahinsky said community input has been a factor in police department operations for as long as he has been chief. He believes residents want to have a positive relationship with law enforcement, but he also recognizes there is some tension within segments of the community, including communities of color, in Grand Rapids and on a national level.

He said he wants the police department to be active listeners and responsive of concerns they hear from residents.

“I’m not going into it with an idea of setting an agenda,” Rahinksy said. “All too often these types of meetings can end up with it being a meeting where the police department or a police chief ends up monopolizing the discussion, and that’s not what we're looking for.”

Rahinsky said he encourages all residents to come and take part of the process. He said his department wants to hear from a good cross-section of the community.

“We're only as good as the community we serve, and this is a great community. But we need to hear from them, we need to know what their priorities are, we need to hear what we're doing well, what we need to improve upon,” Rahinsky said.  

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