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GRPD ends 'routine' fingerprint and photo policy

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Grand Rapids Police Department

The Grand Rapids Police Department has changed its policy of taking photos and fingerprints of people who can’t formally identify themselves during field interviews.

GRPD Chief David Rahinsky says the procedure, commonly known as Photos and Prints or 'P&P', has been modified department-wide, and is no longer considered a "routine practice".

He says factors in the decision include task force recommendations given earlier this year, and the department’s transition to body cameras.

Rahinsky adds review of the policy occurred outside of a lawsuit filed against a GRPD officer and city alleging racial profiling in relation to P&P.

That case was dismissed last month and involved a black teenager who was stopped walking home from school.

"We were looking at this practice before the litigation – the lawsuit actually exonerated the practice," he says. "But having said that, just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s best practices." 

"And as a community and a department, we’re continually striving to improve. And I think this is a step in the right direction for both."

Rahinsky says photos and prints may still be taken in situations deemed "highly suspicious" by the officer involved. He estimates collected fingerprints could drop from more than 1,000 to several dozen annually, and says the move is part of a larger shift in departmental policing practices.

"It’s certainly not a panacea. It’s just the next step in what continues to be an evolving discussion regarding the relationship with the community that they serve."

As for P&P data that’s already been collected – Rahinsky says it’s preserved for now, pending legal proceedings.

He says there is no decision yet on what happens to that data in the long-term.

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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