The city of Grand Rapids launches a series of public meetings today on police- community relations.
The meetings come after a study showed Grand Rapids police disproportionately pulled over black and Hispanic drivers in the city compared to whites.
The study took into account the demographics of drivers at 20 intersections.
Out of the 20 locations analyzed, 16 showed problematic disparities for black drivers, and five showed disparities for Hispanic drivers.
A similar study in Grand Rapids in 2004 found the odds that a black driver was to be stopped by police was 1.3; a ratio that showed no statistical significance. The latest data from stops during 2015 show a ratio of 2.0; “That is a very large increase,” the study’s conclusion says.
Separate from the study, another incident raised tensions in the city in late March. Police officers responded to a report of a group of young black men, one of which allegedly had a gun. An officer saw a group of kids he felt matched the description of the report. He pulled his gun on the boys. The five boys in the group turned out to be unarmed.
In April, about 50 people showed up to a city commission meeting to address the incident. Michigan Radio reported what the parents of the boys had to say at that meeting, including parent Bomesa Sims:
“I think Grand Rapids is at a point where, it’s a boiling point, and we’ve reached it,” he said.
“I’m angry. I know a lot of people are angry. And I’m saying this to the police, like something has to change before ya’ll have a situation on your hands that ya’ll can’t handle. Because it’s that serious,” Sims said.
In response, the city scheduled a series of five public meetings for this month, which are being billed as "listening sessions."
Grand Rapids police Chief David Rahinsky says he’s hoping to hear from a wide range of people at the public meetings, including those who support the department.
"Because I hear from people all the time of the good work that the men and women of the department are doing," he says. "I hear a sense of appreciation. And I hear consistently about the trust that has already been built amongst the department and members of the community."
Here are the details for all the meetings. All addresses are in the city of Grand Rapids.
- June 12, 2017,
Michigan First Credit Union,
Breton Rd SE
- June 12, 2017,
863 7th Street NW
- Bilingual (Spanish/English) Session:
Cesar Chavez School,
Grandville Avenue SW
- June 19, 2017,
Gerald R. Ford School,
Madison Avenue SE
- June 20, 2017,
Fuller Avenue NE