Grand Rapids City Commissioners have hired 21st Century Policing to assist the city's Task Force on their review of the Grand Rapids Police Department’s policies and procedures. The task force was initially created after a traffic study found Grand Rapids police officers were twice as likely to pull over black drivers as non-black drivers. Leading the way at 21st Century Policing is Ronald L. Davis, former President Barack Obama’s executive director for the President’s Task Force.
“The challenges that you’re facing are not unique,” Davis said. “They are consistent across the entire country. What makes Grand Rapids unique in which we think is a plus and can be a model is how the city is responding.” Meanwhile, the two police officers unions representing the GRPD aren’t thrilled with the City Commission’s decision to bring in outside help. They released a joint statement:
"In every case of the Commission or Manager making a sweeping decision to hire consultants, conduct another study or make disparaging remarks toward police, the police have been blindsided. We don't feel that a pattern like this can be in any way constructive to our relationships or our work."
Davis, a police officer for nearly 30 years, says he understands the frustration by the GRPD.
“I know it’s tough on the officers. Because it feels like you are living in a microscope,” Davis said. “But here is what I would say is, the overwhelming majority of police officers are good men and women who are doing just a thankless sometimes job and a very complicated job.”
Rather, Davis, says, it’s the system that needs fixing.
“In many cases the problems and the challenges that the department has is not the actual officers it’s the systems in which they operate. And some of the systems are so draconian and outdated that even good officers will have bad outcomes," Davis said. "So the officers should not look at this as an indictment towards them as much as a way to support them so they have the community trust, and that they are operating in the best systems, that will give them the best outcomes,” he said.
21st Century Policing said they would be looking at the police department’s policies and procedures over the next 12 months.
This story originally ran July 27th.