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Grand Rapids city, police leaders encourage holistic law enforcement approach

Hilary Farrell

A holistic approach to policing practices is being encouraged by Grand Rapids city leaders, as well as the city’s police chief.

Grand Rapids Chief David Rahinsky says that includes changing the definition of law enforcement success to reflect collaboration and local trust, instead of just crime and complaint data. 

He says a GRPD Community Listening Tour is planned for early 2016 to discuss further.

"It’s time to engage the community in a robust discussion," Rahinsky says, "as to whether this (new) mission statement currently reflects our priorities, our core values, and our desired outcomes."

He adds city policies enacted in the past year - such as citizen data collection and officer body cameras - are at the forefront of similar policies nationwide, citing a recent national law enforcement conference.

“And a lot of those changes that we’ve implemented in the last year are changes that (other agencies) are still discussing," Rahinsky says. "They’re discussing body-worn cameras. They’re discussing technology acquisition policies. They’re discussing pursuing additional training.”

Rahinsky additionally provided an update on 12 city recommendations for policing practices at the Tuesday special city commission meeting.

He says the GRPD has completed or "substantially completed" each of the 12.

Those include the deployment of officer body cameras department-wide, which he says should occur by the end of the year. It also includes implicit bias training for officers, which Rahinsky says has been put up for bid.

Outside of recommendations, Rahinsky says the department is looking to add a second shift of community policing officers - now known as Community Policing Specialists - for nights and weekends.

Suggestions from city leaders included policy reviews for handling minor, non-criminal acts and officer training for Narcan – a brand name of naloxone - which can effectively reverse an opioid overdose.

Rahinsky says the GRPD has its eye on a grant supporting officer training and administration of the drug.

He says the department is also working on launching a recidivism reduction program for female offenders, which he says would be the first in the state if successful. 

Not discussed at the meeting was implementation of ShotSpotter – technology said to locate and report incidents of gunfire in real time.

A city spokesperson says discussion on purchasing the software has been tabled, noting previous community response.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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