Angered over an incident in which five African American youths were detained by police at gunpoint before being released without charges, a large group demanded a personal apology from the police officers involved at the latest City Commissioners meeting.
On March 24th, Grand Rapids Police officers responded to a report of 50 youths engaged in a fight at the Kroc Center. When they arrived on the scene, one witness claimed they had seen a youth with a revolver. After canvassing the neighborhood, police found the five boys ages 12 to 14, walking nearby. One of the youths matched the description of the suspect carrying the firearm. Police ordered them to the ground with guns drawn. After being searched the boys were released to their parents. No charges were filed, nor was a gun recovered.
“Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the videos of the unarmed black pre-teen and teenage boys being held at gunpoint. What shocked me was how the Police Department reacted,” Tavian Moore, the President of the Greater GRand Rapids NAACP Youth Council said. He along with many others addressed the City Commission Tuesday evening to demand an apology.
"I am offended as an African-American man.” Lamont R. Cole, the 3rd Vice President of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP said, stressing that the incident represents a pattern of behavior by police being aggressive towards African Americans.
“This is definitely not an isolated situation," Cole said. "I mean…for us to be in 2017 still dealing with the same crap that we have been dealing with for the last 100 years, it’s appalling."
While many at the meeting wanted personal apologies from the officers involved, Grand Rapids Chief of Police David Rahinsky told the City Commission that he apologized to the parents of the children on behalf of the GRPD two weeks ago, however, he said, the police officers did nothing wrong.
“I apologized to the young men and their families, a sincere apology and explanation that the officers involved were following up on specific information in our on-going efforts to keep everyone in this community safe,” Chief Rahinsky said.
Sensitivity has been a focal point for the Grand Rapids Police Department. Last year the entire department underwent implicit bias training in an effort to keep preconceived prejudices from impacting officers’ decision making while on the job.