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Grand Rapids Mayor focus on public safety and community relations fixes during State of the City

Courtesy office of Mayor Bliss

During her 3rd State of the City Address last week Grand Rapids mayor Rosalynn Bliss turned her attention to public safety. In the aftermath of what she called “critical incidents involving youth” and the profiling minority motorists, the mayor is seeking solutions for improving relations between the Grand Rapids Police Department and the diverse communities it serves.

"We must be a community of trust, safety, fairness, respect and security for all.”

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss says this involves community conversations including the Grand Rapids police officers. Strengthening relationships after a 2017 traffic study revealed “black drivers were twice as likely to be stopped by police in Grand Rapids as white drivers.”

Similarly, Hispanic drivers also experienced similar disparities. Mayor Bliss created listening sessions to address the problem.

“We created a Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force made up of residents from each of the city’s wards and Grand Rapids police personnel from every rank. The task force is examining policies and procedures, police officer training – particularly around implicit bias and responding to youth and officer hiring practices. This work is being facilitated by 21st Century Policing, which has assisted cities and law enforcement agencies across the country with collaborative approaches to strengthening community and police relations.”

The city also created youth strategies building relationships with officers including the Pathway to Policing program.

“This initiative is open to Boys and Girls Club members and is led by our police officers and the Boys and Girls Club. It provides mentoring, hands-on training, test preparation, interview skill development and life skills. While providing a solid foundation that can assist students for any career they choose, the Pathways to Policing also is a recruitment initiative for our police department with the potential to create a police force that better reflects the diversity of our city.”

City of Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky initiated a Youth Advisory Council where school students meet with the chief sharing law enforcement issues impacting their worlds.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.