Group to Grand Rapids: Cut $9M from police now

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A partnership of local organizations on Thursday demanded a large funding cut to the Grand Rapids Police Department in less than a week.

The DeFund the GRPD Campaign Coalition wants the city to call an emergency meeting to slash GRPD’s funds for the upcoming budget, which goes into effect July 1. Right now, GRPD is set to get about 39% of the general fund. The DeFund coalition wants that to be limited to 32%, the smallest percentage allowed by city charter.

The difference would mean some $9.4 million less for GRPD. The coalition wants that money to go toward other programs that would help the Black community and it wants Black leaders to decide exactly how it’s spent.

“Enough is enough. The time to defund the police department and refund our Black communities is now. The time has come to remind our city officials that they work for us, that their budget is our money and we should decide where it goes,” event organizer Danah Montgomery said at a Thursday evening press conference.

Editor’s Note: The video below of the press conference contains some profanity used during a live event.

Montgomery and other speakers at a Thursday evening press conference cited instances of the use of force against a Black man last year, multiple incidents in which officers pointed guns at Black children within the last few years, and the instance on the night of the downtown riot in which a man was pepper-sprayed and then immediately hit with a flashbang canister at close range.

“All of these stories illustrate how deeply oppressive GRPD is and has been to our communities of color,” Montgomery said, also pointing out that that the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is investigating whether this is systemic discrimination by GRPD.

She said GRPD hasn’t moved on more than 100 recommendations for reform put forth in recent years.

Speakers said they weren’t arguing for the elimination of the police department, but rather saying that police agencies need to consider systemic racial inequities.

The coalition, which includes the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, Together We Are Safe, The People’s Budget of Grand Rapids, Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids and GR Rapid Response to ICE, is also calling for more community engagement to improve safety.

Grand Rapids City Commissioner Joe Jones has also floated the $9.4 million cut to GRPD. Both the city manager and police chief have indicated they are more focused on immediate solutions to racial inequity in policing. The chief said last week that he’s not thinking about the proposed funding cut.

The Grand Rapids police officers’ unions have warned against funding cuts, arguing they would result in layoffs that would negatively affect neighborhoods with the most crime.

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