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Grand Rapids police chief says "sustained effort" needed to continue improving community relations

Jun 9, 2017

The city of Grand Rapids has been working on trying to find ways to make sure police officers are not treating citizens unequally and improving relations with the community.

The city has been working to implement a so-called 12-point plan, something that’s been in the works for a couple of years.

But, a recent traffic stop report indicated its officers are treating people of color differently than white citizens, arresting them more frequently. Then, there was the recent incident about an officer pulling his weapon on five unarmed African-American boys.

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky joined Stateside to discuss.

Some concerned citizens say the GRPD has a lot of work to do and have given the 12-point plan implementation poor grades. The city claims much of it is complete. Rahinsky would give his department's effort a "B-plus."

"This is not a one-and-done," Rahinsky said. "When I look at things that we have to do, like the training component of the 12-point plan, it's something that is ongoing. But when I look at the plan, everything from implementing body-worn cameras to undergoing bias-based training ... to implementing a technology policy with the input from the ACLU and other stakeholders, those have all been completed."

According to Rahinsky, 11 of the 12 points, including the traffic study, have been completed. The only remaining item is the arrest disparity that exists and trying to determine the causes of those. And when it comes to solving these problems, Rahinsky said there's no quick fix. 

"It's a big undertaking and I think what you do is you go about it in small bites, day by day," Rahinsky said. "These relationships, some of the negative perceptions regarding law enforcement, they have historical roots and things that have been happening for generations are not going to be changed with one interaction with a police officer ... it's going to take a sustained effort."

Listen to the full interview above to hear how the GRPD is addressing the issue of implicit bias and the effort to increase community engagement. 

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