Pastor: GRPD union’s statement on shootings ‘insulting’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids pastor and community activist Jerry Bishop denounced a statement issued by the union representing police officers made hours after four people were shot in the downtown area following the fireworks celebration Saturday night.

Four people were shot following the fireworks in downtown Grand Rapids Saturday night. One of the victims, 20-year-old Saul Espinoza, died from his injuries.

Shortly after noon Sunday, the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association posted a statement to Facebook.

“The recent and continued violence is the direct result of city officials not properly staffing and supporting the police department,” it read. “To allow the police department to be constantly scrutinized discourages any type of proactive enforcement necessary to keep Grand Rapids safe. It is evident that stop the violence rallies have no affect (sic) on criminal activity. It’s time to let GRPD get back to policing.”

“Those are some very insulting comments,” Jerry Bishop, pastor at Lifequest Ministries in Grand Rapids, told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.

Bishop is a well-known activist in the community who has challenged rhetoric from the GRPOA online. The pastor said he has requested private meetings with union leadership to no avail.

“I’m just amazed that in 2019 that the level of fear that is present — and the antagonism — that you would antagonize and almost insult those leaders, city officials, even our police chief that came out for the SAFE rally,” Bishop said, referring to a rally police and community leaders hosted on June 28 about a recent uptick in gun violence.

The Grand Rapids Police Department said the shootings after the fireworks were not the result of a staffing problem. Deputy Chief Eric Payne said more than 100 officers staffed the fireworks celebration and that more manpower would not have had an impact on the violence.

GRPOA leaders were not available for an interview.

“The only way that we’re going to have a reversal in violent trends is its going to have to be face-to-face, boots-on-ground, neighborhood intervention,” Bishop said. “This is not a police matter.”

Bishop said he believes increased investment and programs to help youth in the inner city is the only real solution to the violence problem.

“I definitely cannot fathom more police without more outreach,” Bishop said.

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