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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

City Holds Traffic Study Meeting for Spanish Speakers

Mariano Avila

The city of Grand Rapids recently hired Lambert Consulting to look into whether there is a pattern of racial profiling and discrimination in police traffic stops over the last three years.

Although there were several community meetings explaining the methodology and purpose of the study, Roberto Torres, Executive Director of the Hispanic Center, requested a meeting to be held for Latinos and interpreted to Spanish.

“When you talk about first generation, second generation Latinos, many of them come from countries where the government is not to be trusted. So then they come here to the US and you’re expecting them to just relate to government.”

But it goes beyond trust issues. Torres says that sometimes, what might be a simple ticket for a traffic violation has different consequences for Latinos.

“So, it’s arrest and it’s incarceration, and then for some of them, it’s deportation. So you have one of those experiences and it gets out in the community and then nobody wans to have that experience with the police.”

For his part, Police Chief David Rahinsky says it’s important to speak with community members ahead of the study to build trust. Moreover, he says the study will look at quantitative data on stops over the past three years and not focus on individual experiences. On the other hand:

“So what I encourage members of the community to do if they have an exchange with an officer that is anything other than professional, respectful, they need to let us know, and the quicker the better, that way we can identify the issues and resolve them.”  

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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