GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 100 people gathered at Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids Monday afternoon to show their support for police.
The Grand Rapids Unity Event drew current and retired officers, families of fallen officers and community members who worry that suggestions to slash funding to the Grand Rapids Police Department would negatively affect the city.
GRPD Chief Eric Payne was among those on hand. He promised he would work with groups of varying perspectives to revise policy, saying he wanted GRPD to be “the model police department.”
“We have to come together and solve these problems that exist, and we can work together,” Payne said. “We have a lot of great people working in the Grand Rapids Police Department; that needs to be recognized and understand that they’re out there doing a tough job. But if we can do it better, we will.”
The new city budget goes into effect Wednesday and while some community groups and even a city commissioner have called for a funding cut of more than $9 million before then, officials have not indicated that might actually happen.
The concern surrounding it was nonetheless a central focus of the rally. The mother of the last Grand Rapids police officer to die in the line of duty said she worries about the safety of the remaining officer if cuts are made.
Maria Kozminski’s son, Officer Robert Kozminski, was shot and killed in the line of duty in July 2007.
“I do worry about them. I don’t want another family, another set of parents, another child, another sibling, another spouse to ever have to go through what we went through,” Kozminski told News 8. “I miss him so much.”
Organizers said their hope was that the event would build unity between those who protect and serve and people with concerns about how those duties are carried out, particularly in regards to racial equity. But there were few people of color in the crowd.
“You may have had a vast majority… but there was a lot of Latinos, there was a lot of African Americans here — more so than people would expect at an event like this,” Tom Norton, one of the event’s organizers and a congressional candidate, told News 8.
Icela Carranza, the mother of a Grand Rapids police officer, hopes the message of those gathered goes beyond the event.
“I’m praying for them every day,” Carranza told News 8. “I want people to understand that they are sons. They are husbands. They are brothers and there is a family waiting for them when they finish being on duty.”