Is Grand Rapids Police Reform like my Diet?

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Photo by Ari Vangeest

I would guess that once I month I tell myself that I need to get in shape. Then I create this elaborate regimen and say that this time I will create a healthy lifestyle that I can keep.

I begin by going for a walk or a run. When I go to the grocery store, I eliminate unhealthy snacks and soft drinks. I buy salad supplies instead of french fries and pizza. I begin looking at different bikes I could buy to use in my daily commute and I look up workouts online.

After a week (tops), I begin to compare myself to other people. I begin to think “If I’m better than that person then I can’t be in that bad of shape” or “I’m never going to get as healthy as that person so why even try?” I don’t have the mental strength to maintain such a drastic change. I start off enthusiastically, but it quickly fades. When I was in school, I took a running class which forced me to run three days a week. For that entire semester, I went diligently to class and I got in better shape, but once that class was done I lost that support structure and I turned back to my old ways.

Eventually, I tell myself that BMI scores are a bad indicator of health because they don’t account for muscle to fat ratio or because it is too antiquated. Ultimately I stop working out, I go back to eating the same foods I was to begin with and no change has occurred. 

I see police reform falling into the same habits. In a previous post I talked about the results of the Grand Rapids Traffic Stop Survey where it was found that police are twice as likely to pull over black motorists than anyone else.

Following the release of the study, it seemed like the entire community was talking about it. There were multiple town hall meetings where the City Manager as well the police chief were in attendance. People were pressuring the city to make changes. It is now two months later, and I have not seen another newspaper piece on the study. I have not heard people talking about it recently. Like my diet, motivation faded fast in regards to police reform.

Lamberth Consulting, who was hired to do the study, gave a day of racial bias training. In the study it says that an active minority were opposed to the training. They saw it as a waste of time and a political fad. I saw some of these ideas come out when I posted the study on my LinkedIn page. As a member of the team I wanted to share my thoughts on the study. Here are some comments from past and current GRPD officers.

Comments From Officers

“This ‘study’ is a witch hunt. . . This witch hunt exists to suck money from municipalities”

“When the study is done, there can be a tendency to fulfill the authors’ hypothesis by selecting the data that does this best.”

“To quote Captain America on the Avengers “Put on the suit!” You can look and think you know it all. “Put on the suit!” Look at the last issue where teens were stopped and they had a gun. Black, white, brown or orange [sic] it doesn’t matter! Live in the hood expect to be stopped. Those of us that have worked the streets know and have stopped those suspected of criminal activity. I’d bet to say the statistics show the officers made the right stops! Gods bless the Blue!”

“Close minded liberal perspective.”

Change Is Hard, But Worth It

Members of the community want change, people at city hall want change, and I believe that there is a group within the GRPD that wants change. Grand Rapids has been told that there is a problem and now the study has given evidence that there is a problem. Lamberth Consulting, and I have seen however, that there is an opposition within the police force to change.

What I see happening in Grand Rapids is what happened to my prospects of working out. There are two voices in my head. One saying I need to work out, the other saying its easier not to. The police who made the comments I listed above, as well as those who encourage those comments seem to think that what is currently happening is normal. They see change in a negative light.

Support needs to be given to those who are within the police force, at city hall, and members of the community who want to see change. Silence is the greatest enemy of change. If the community does not show that there is support for change, change will not happen and this study will be forgotten.

Change is difficult. The only way that the police department is going to “get healthy” is if someone runs beside them and encourages them. If not, then they will continue with the status quo, just like I am now, sitting on the couch.

What do you think Grand Rapids could do make changes in the police department? What can Grand Rapids do to go beyond the 12 Point Plan?

Contact Info for Greg Sundstrom. Give them a call and let them know you stand beside change.

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