Group urges commissioners to reject budget, lower GRPD funding

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group urging Grand Rapids to slash funding to the police department is criticizing the budget proposal that would increase dollars set to the department and calling on leaders to start over with a different process.

While the proposal put forth last week by City Manager Mark Washington decreases the overall percentage of the general fund going to the Grand Rapids Police Department, because of technology upgrades and other savings, GRPD will actually receive $665,189 more than it did last year.

Defund the GRPD wants the city to limit the police budget to 32% of the general fund — the lowest percentage currently allowed under the city charter. In a release, it called the increased dollars to the agency “a willful denial of the thousands of voices that called for defunding the GRPD over the last 12 months.”

Defund the GRPD, in conjunction with police reform advocacy group Justice for Black Lives, held a virtual press conference Wednesday to call on commissioners to reject the budget.

“We demand that the city commission restart the fiscal year 2022 budget adoption process and implement and new community engagement plan that practices full transparency and accessibility,” a Defund the GRPD organizer who goes only by her first name, Danah, said during the press conference. “In the GRPD budget, there’s a line item titled ‘other services and charges’ for over $10.2 million. We demand to know what that means.”

The group called the budget document “neither accessible nor easy to read” because it is 438 pages. The plan, which is available for download on the city’s website, outlines $546 million in spending.

Defund the GRPD also argued the timeline for passing the budget is “far too short for meaningful engagement from the wider community.” It wants the city to let residents put forth ideas for reallocating cash.

“Through a participatory budgeting process, we can engage with the community and think of ways where the money can go — maybe even things we haven’t even imagined yet. Yes, we want more funds to address homelessness, for the Grand Rapids Public Library, for Cure Violence, but maybe there’s also programs where grassroots organizations need money,” Danah said.

The city is hosting a town hall meeting on the budget at 6 p.m. Thursday and commissioners will take more public comment during their regular meeting May 18. They will vote on the budget May 20.

Defund the GRPD and Justice for Black Lives are planning protests over the budget, including one on May 14 at 6 p.m. downtown.

—News 8’s Emily Linnert contributed to this report.

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