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    City Manager Greg Sundstrom today outlined a detailed and pro-active plan to strengthen relations between the Grand Rapids Police Department and the community. Sundstrom delivered his multi-faceted recommendations to the City Commission at this morning’s Committee of the Whole. The measure, developed over the past seven weeks through the input of various residents, community groups, the City Commission, Chief of Police David Rahinsky, police department employees and city staff, contains 12 specific suggestions to enhance professional relationships and build trust between the community and its police force.

    “Our Grand Rapids Police Department ranks among the very best in the nation,” Sundstrom told Commissioners and those citizens who attended the Committee of the Whole meeting this morning. “That fact was conveyed by dozens of citizens who spoke at recent community and City Commission meetings and was recently verified in a report by the International City Management Association.

    As part of its commitment to the community, however, the department constantly welcomes internal and external review of operations as a means to continuously improve services for all citizens.” Sundstrom said the recommendations are a pro-active response to community perceptions of the department that were expressed following recent tragic events involving community and police relations that took place throughout the United States. Those national events hit home with some Grand Rapids citizens and prompted conversation regarding strengthening community and police relations here in Grand Rapids and provided another opportunity to enhance departmental operations.

    “Our community came together in a peaceful and meaningful way following these external events to bolster the Grand Rapids Police Department’s outstanding service to this community, improve Grand Rapids’ already solid relationship with the community and foster an enriching environment that ensures that civility and respect between the community and Police Department continues to flourish,” he said.

    At various community meetings, the City Commission heard calls for a broad set of changes, including requiring Police Officers to use body cameras, obtaining a new racial-profiling study, providing testing for Police Officers to evaluate any possible underlying racial bias they may have, empaneling a task force to study how to improve public attitudes toward police, targeting recruitment of minority and women Police Officers, training minority policy makers, and analyzing why minorities are arrested at disparate rates.

    In response to these requests, the City of Grand Rapids formed the Community and Police Relations Committee to expand a dialogue with community leaders. The Committee included: Mayor George Heartwell, Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear, Third Ward City Commissioner Elias Lumpkins, Community Relations Commission Chairperson Kemal Hamulic, NAACP’s Greater Grand Rapids Branch President Cle Jackson, Grand Rapids Urban League President and CEO Joe Jones, LINC Co-Executive Director Darel Ross II, State Education Board member Lupe Ramos Montigny, Police Chief David Rahinsky, Police Captain Kurt Vanderkooi, Police Lieutenant Dan Lind, Police Lieutenant Vince Reilly, Diversity and Inclusion Manager Patti Caudill, Diversity and Inclusion Business Developer Alex Thomas, Managing Director of Administrative Services Mari Beth Jelks, and City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

    The Community and Police Relations Committee met five times throughout the months of December and January to examine how the City could foster a dialogue with a variety of voices to ensure Grand Rapids and the community could partner to develop a plan of action to improve relations. According to Mayor George Heartwell, meeting discussions were earnest and productive, centering on the need for body cameras, review of the City’s proposed timeline for taking actions, review of other police departments’ use of body cameras, the City’s hiring practices, and review of a proposed City policy to protect citizen privacy. Mayor Heartwell said that the recommendations, finalized by City Manager Greg Sundstrom, Police Chief David Rahinsky, and City Attorney Catherine Mish are “far reaching, proactive and will result in significant and meaningful reforms.” Sundstrom’s 12 recommendations are organized in six categories:

    1) Police Department Reforms,
    2) Body Cameras and Operational Protocols,
    3) Racial Disparities,
    4) City Diversity and Inclusion Policies and Practices,
    5) Citizen Privacy, and 6) Independent Reviews of Police Actions.

    Recommendation 1— Establishes a citizen’s committee to oversee the remodeling of the City’s hiring practices and continue partnering with the Grand Rapids Public Schools and other agencies to connect with youth interested in law enforcement careers to encourage a ‘grow our own’ environment.

    Recommendation 2 — Strengthens the connection between the community and Police Department by reorganizing the Police Department to create additional opportunities for the Police Chief and service area Police Captains to regularly engage with citizens and schedule regular office hours and community meetings in their service area. The recommendation calls for the city to add additional Community Police Officers to provide expanded days and hours of service in neighborhoods across the city. It also encourages a partnership with the Community Relations Commission to improve communications and promote the transparency of their operations.

    Recommendation 3 — Calls for enhancing Police Officer training to provide mandatory cultural competence training and mandatory Implicit Bias Training for all Police Officers to improve citizen interactions through departmental performance metrics.

    Recommendation 4 — Requires the Police Department to distribute and promote its Police Department Strategic Plan, currently being prepared, and develop a plan that provides a framework for implementing recommendations from the manager’s 12 recommendations to strengthen community and police relations.

    Recommendation 5 — Calls for the city to commence the phased implementation of body cameras for Police Officers.

    Recommendation 6 — Requires that the department first develop protocols for the use of body cameras. The policy should include: data retention schedules, protections for citizens’ privacy, and access to the data.

    Recommendation 7 — Calls for the City to analyze racial disparities of arrests of people of color by hiring a consultant to conduct an independent study of the disparity of arrests, including ‘hindering and opposing’ and ‘resisting and obstructing’ arrests of minority citizens in the City of Grand Rapids. The study should include a qualitative analysis of citizen and Police Officer interactions to understand if there is a disparity in treatment.

    Recommendation 8 — As a follow-up to a 2004 study that showed that the City did not racially profile, a consultant should again be hired to conduct another racial profiling traffic stop study for the City of Grand Rapids.

    Recommendation 9 — To ensure that the entire Grand Rapids municipal operation is following approved procedures, Recommendation 9 calls for the City to work with the Community Relations Commission to review the City’s diversity and inclusion policies and practices.

    Recommendation 10 — Requires that the City develop an Acquisition and Use of Surveillance Equipment Administrative Policy to protect citizen privacy in balance with the increased use of new surveillance technology.

    Recommendation 11 — Asks the City Commission to direct the City Manager and Police Chief to develop protocols that would require an outside police agency to investigate any Grand Rapids Police Officer involved shooting. An independent investigation, in addition to the work of the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit and the City’s Labor Relations Office, should provide the Civilian Appeals Board with complete and independent information to permit them to properly review citizen allegations.

    Recommendation 12 — Suggests that the City Commission provide a significant public education campaign to communicate to all citizens about their right to use the Civilian Appeals Board and work to ensure that all citizens are aware of the rights and protections provided by the internal investigative process and the Civilian Appeals Board.

    Each recommendation has a timetable assigned to the tasks at hand to ensure that consistent progress is made in implementing suggested processes and reforms. Chief of Police David Rahinsky said that he and staff participated in several community meetings and contributed to the City Manager’s report on ways they believed the Department could strengthen its service to the residents of the community.

    “The men and women of the Grand Rapids Police Department have chosen a career of service and they perform their duties very well. Nonetheless, some residents have expressed a disconnect with Police Officers,” Chief Rahinsky said. “It is that disconnect that the City of Grand Rapids seeks to improve and heal through the City Manager’s recommendation to the City Commission. I fully support the City Manager’s 12-point plan and thank the Grand Rapids community for its input on ways that we, together, can build a stronger partnership.”

    Click to read the report in its entirety.