Where are our equitable, elected city leaders in the face of inequity?

Call your Mayor and City Commissioners and demand that police officers apologize to 5 unarmed boys

Tag Mayor Bliss and your two commissioners on Facebook and ask “The community has spoken; do you feel the five boys deserve an apology?” #whatsyourstance

On Tuesday evening at City Hall, 46 people lined up to give their 3 minutes on why they were drastically concerned with the latest incident by Grand Rapids Police. The mothers, fathers, teenagers, family members, supporters — a majority people of color — spoke with great concern and passion and were supported by over 200 people in the crowd. None of the 46 people supported the police actions that took place against the five unarmed boys.

After the meeting, Grand Rapids Police Chief Rahinsky told MLive, “The officers didn’t do anything wrong. They acted on articulate facts from a witness moments earlier who said he saw them hand a gun to each other.” He said it would be inappropriate to allow the police officers to apologize, even though the Chief already apologized to the family on behalf of the department.

Coincidentally, a white man showed up to the city commission meeting with a open carry gun dressed in military clothes and spoke to the commissioners, but no one called the police.

City commissioners have remained silent on the issue except Commissioner Lenear, who called for an investigation following the incident. As Equity PAC Co-Chair Kelsey Perdue stated to the commission “those that are silent are complicit.” Today you could hear a pin drop in city hall.

On Wednesday, two police unions released a joint statement that headlined “No need for policy changes for GRPD”. The unions issued the release “in reaction to recent calls by certain community members to impose a ‘new policy’ on police operations,” directly opposing the family members, friends and community members that were asking for an apology from the officers and changes in how policing is done in Grand Rapids.

The statement also says that video of these incidents of harassment have created a “cop hating segment of the community” and that the unions made an effort to dialogue with the black community but “the work has been slow.”

The statement wraps up by saying, “ Our department will continue to review our policies to ensure they are bench marked and in compliance with all legal standards. We as officers will find ways to expand our relationships in every part of Grand Rapids, especially areas where people feel disenfranchised and somehow targeted.”

We applaud the union’s commitment to bench marking their policies and expanding their relationships in every part of Grand Rapids. The need for further, very public discussion on bench marking and relationship development between the police unions and the disenfranchised is a great next step.

So we at Equity PAC offer to work with the union leadership Andy Bingel, President GRPOA and Mike Maycroft, President GRPCOA to support this commitment. Equity PAC would be glad to pay for a space to have a dialogue between disenfranchised citizens and President Bingel and President Maycroft within the 49507 zip code where the incident took place.

We will gladly work with both Presidents to find a community leader who lives or is based in the neighborhood to facilitate the conversation, and would hope to include the Mayor and City Commissioners who have been outwardly committed to a more equitable Grand Rapids. We would encourage media coverage and ensure that the city of Grand Rapids would have a chance to better understand the unions’ concern on these issues.

We hear the unions’ urgency on expressing their outrage at the “constant barrage of complaints and demonstrations…” after their officers pointed weapons at unarmed children, and we agree the time is now to make an effort to increase dialogue.

President Bingel and President Maycroft, we encourage you to take this opportunity by calling us at 616.401.3580. We can only imagine the feeling of urgency you have to progress your relationship with the black community and expand your relationships into every part of Grand Rapids. I imagine the “disenfranchised” of Grand Rapids and the black community would love to have a public conversation about your statement as well. We’ll await your call.

Mayor Bliss and Commissioners Allen and Lenear, Shaffer and O’Connor, and Jones and Kelly: the community awaits your equitable leadership. The community says, “Enough.”

In the meantime, the City announced five police-focused meetings next week, starting at LINC next Tuesday, April 18th at 5:30pm, where GRPD will listen to input regarding ways to improve policing practices. We call on all Equity PAC members to attend and make your voices heard.

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