In the wake of community outcry over the Grand Rapids police officer who cuffed 11-year-old Honestie Hodges, Grand Rapids Area Pastors invited the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and GRPD leaders and advocates to dialog yesterday at Abney Academy Elementary.
It’s a chilly day, but pastors, police and county employees keep their interactions warm as they settle in for what Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky describes as tough conversations. Then during his opening remarks he says he’s reviewed the case and found officers followed procedure and therefore won’t be disciplined. This chills the mood somewhat.
“What that doesn’t mean is that we don’t recognize that there’s a need for us to look at what’s occurred, and to identify opportunities here to insure different outcomes for the future.”
Pastor Jerry Bishop responds expressing frustration within communities of color both for feeling like police are targeting minorities on the streets and for a lack of accountability.
“We have zero confident that the police can police themselves, we feel it necessary to bring in external entities that have significantly greater investigative authority as well as resources, like the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the Department of Justice.”
Following opening remarks we are all asked to leave pastors, police, and civil rights folks to have their dialog in private. However, Pastor Moody cuts to the core of the community’s concerns before remarks end.
“Our city has a deep-rooted problem. And that deep-rooted problem is racism. And we always feel afraid to talk about it, but our city, right here in Grand Rapids, we have that from a business standpoint, all the way to the Police Department.”
So, while I can’t say for sure whether the conversation focused on policies and procedures that need to be changed or whether it focused on systemic racism, what both parties expressed was a clear need for both dialog and action.