GR police unions warn against proposed budget cut

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids police officers unions are urging residents to tell city leaders not to cut some $9.4 million from the department’s funding.

Amid nationwide calls to cut police funding and redirect the cash to other community projects, a Grand Rapids commissioner has floated reducing the Grand Rapids Police Department’s share of the general fund from nearly 39% to the city charter-mandated 32% minimum. That would decrease GRPD’s current $55.1 million portion to $45.7 million.

During a Thursday afternoon press conference, the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association and Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association said the move would lead to dozens of layoffs and negatively affect people who live in high-crime areas that the unions say already don’t have enough police presence.

“If we are mandated to make this cut, it would be our entire night shift of police officers and approximately half of our investigative unit,” Capt. Geoff Collard, president of the command officers union, said.

Union leaders say the cuts would result in the layoff of 78 of the department, which includes 298 sworn officers and about 105 civilian members. 

“They are looking at potentially losing their jobs for doing their jobs and doing them very well in the city of Grand Rapids,” Collard said. 

The unions said the laid off officers would “represent the most diverse segment of our department” and all its interns, who are part of a diverse hiring initiative.

The union leaders said the layoffs would necessitate broad reorganizing that would mean only the most serious crimes are investigated and that specialized units like vice and traffic would suffer. 

“We would have to shut down almost every specialty unit in our department,” Collard said.

They painted that as a grim situation, citing a number of statistics including 17 homicides in the city so far this year, an about 11% increase in violent crime and an about 32% increase in gun crime in the first quarter.

While the release didn’t explicitly address recent protests, it did note that “we have also been experiencing consistent incidents where large groups of individuals have unlawfully been interfering with traffic in major intersections,” adding that those incidents had involved reports of shots fired and delayed some emergency responses.

Union leaders say that GRPD has cooperated with every evaluation and every call for reform over the last decade and that many of the demands about limiting use of force and de-escalation are already longstanding policies.

“We’ve jumped through every hoop that has been asked of us. And we value the community, we value their relationship with us and any time we can improve that relationship, we’re willing to work with them to do it,” Officer Andy Dingle, president of GRPOA, said.

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