WGVU hosted a Town Hall on Policing and Community on Friday, July 22. The show airs Monday night at 11:00 on WGVU TV.
The conversation looks at fear that communities of color have when encountering police and the fear police have of being killed by people of color. But it also focuses on what could be done to prevent incidents involving police here in Grand Rapids.
Our first guest, Black Lives Matter Grand Rapids co-founder Briana Ureña-Ravelo, said equating those fears is a false binary.
"If we’re going to look at the numbers for how dangerous it is to be a cop, it’s getting less dangerous to be a police officer. And that’s an institution. That’s a group of people that elected to be police officers. Versus, understanding that Black folks have lived in a community, in a world that sees them as lesser than, and polices them, and assaults them, and they have to be afraid of an institution."
For his part, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief David Rahinsky said after speaking at a national police conference, he’s confident of his department’s community efforts.
"There’s no one around the country, a department our size, who is doing more to interact with the community, more be transparent, or more to build accountability than our agency and I’m proud of our department, but I’m also proud of the community because these are joint efforts."
Darel Ross, co-director of LINC, said it’s not about good or bad cops or even departments.
"When you work in a criminal justice system that only allows police to arrest when they show up, the whole system is broken down by the time they’re involved. So I think we need some serious criminal justice conversation in this country. We need some serious, serious conversation on the institution of policing."
What all three touched upon was a need for community to have more conversation about what policing means and to go beyond what we can see about the other.
Again, Darel Ross:
"I firmly believe, and LINC would say, that the community has a right to dictate how it wants to be policed."
"If somebody has a bias against police or a bias against an ethnic group or a nationality, the best way to knock down that wall is to get them to interact with the individual and see that they have the same concerns and the same compassion they do."
As for specific solutions: Ureña-Ravelo suggests redirection of police funds to community programs that could respond to situations such as a mental health crisis.
"Ultimately I think the money should go back to the community, because I think that the community can address issues that police are not able to address and that’s not their job to address."