GR police watchdog aims for ‘meaningful change’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a renewed call for more police oversight around the country. In Grand Rapids, a police and fire oversight committee was created last year.

Brandon Davis has officially been the director of the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability for less than three weeks, though he has served at the interim director since August.

The watchdog department received its first complaint for review last week. It will soon be reviewing the investigation linked to a viral video of a man being pepper-sprayed and hit with a tear gas canister that was taken during the weekend riots.

Events like the one captured during the riot spark internal investigations at the Grand Rapids Police Department, but many are concerned with police policing themselves. 

“My job is to bring additional accountability,” Davis said.

Davis will now review all complaints completed by the GRPD’s Internal Affairs Unit.

“If we never needed it before, we need it right now,” he said. 

The framework for the office is still being built. Davis is currently looking at how police complaints have been handled in the past and finding ways to improve the process. For each internal investigation, he will make sure the reports are accurate, the laws was followed and that police actions were unbiased.  

Davis said as a black man, he understands why people are hurt and angry.

“I bring that to the work,” he said. “I recognize that people are experiencing real pain and outrage and we have to take every complaint seriously and make sure the highest level of professionalism are applied and we do it from a place of compassion and empathy.”

The goal is impartial policing.

“This isn’t about checking a box, this isn’t about the city saying, ‘Hey, we did something,'” Davis said. “This is about making real, meaningful change to make sure our community is a place where all people feel safe and are safe at all times.”

You can email concerns to the office at opa@grcity.us

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