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Grand Rapids officials hosting 'listening sessions' with community


The city of Grand Rapids is hoping to improve its relationship between the community and the Grand Rapids Police Department. Starting this week, city officials are hosting a number of “Community Listening Sessions.”

“The message to residents is really, ‘they are experts of their experience,'" Stacy Stout, assistant to the City Manager of Grand Rapids said. Stout is on the leadership team for the City's listening sessions. "We value their voice, and the city is committed to a deeper type of community engagement than what they may have experienced previously,” she said.

In an effort to gain understanding of how the community see’s its relationship with the police department, city officials are holding 5 separate listening sessions facilitated by community members, where the city says residents can have their voices be heard and documented. Stout says the city will then gather that data in the hopes that it will not only shape future policy, but also provide insight into people’s personal experiences.

“From there we will have additional deep dives," Stout said. "Again this is just the first phase of an ongoing community engagement. It will help direct us as to what other sessions we need to do deep dives on, (and) what are topics that are of most interests to residents," she said. "It’s our first guidepost on this journey.”

While Grand Rapids police have made a considered effort to address transparency through implicit bias training and equipping every police officer with a body camera, the police department’s relationship with the community took a hit recently--an independent traffic study found the GRPD is twice as likely to pull over black drivers than non-black drivers. In addition, there was public outcry after a video of GR police ordering 5 African American youths to the ground at gunpoint went viral. Stout, a woman of color says, she understands that people are upset, which is what the listening sessions are all about.

“If we didn’t have sessions people would be upset too. So, we decided we are going to move forward. We would love to have people partner with us. To reach out to us and have a conversation with us. But we are moving forward, because we care.”

Residents are encouraged to attend the listening sessions. Here is a list of where and when they will occur. 

Third Ward DAYTIME Session
June 12, 2017
Michigan First Credit Union (1815 Breton Rd SE)
First Ward Session
June 12, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Stocking School (863 7th Street NW)
Bilingual (Spanish/English) Session
June 16, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Cesar Chavez (1205 Grandville Avenue SW)
Third Ward EVENING Session
June 19, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Gerald R. Ford School (851 Madison Avenue SE)
Second Ward Session
June 20, 2017
6:00 p.m.
GRPS University (1400 Fuller Avenue NE)

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