Protest held over new GRPD hire

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Protesters from several activist groups gathered Friday on Breonna Taylor Way in Grand Rapids to protest the Grand Rapids Police Department’s hiring of Karianne Thomas as chief of staff. 

“What the hell are you hiring her for?” said Jakari, who is a member of the 616 Young Black Panther Party, as he spoke to the crowd. 

Thomas is the former chief of Kalamazoo’s Department of Public Safety. KDPS faced public scrutiny last year while she was chief for how it handled racial inequality protests, downtown vandalism and a Proud Boys rally. 

“Come on, she’s just going to be even worse here,” said Myka, an activist at the rally. “She already knows what GRPD’s reputation is. She’s just going to add fuel to the fire.”

“Karianne Thomas did what she wanted to do in Kalamazoo,” said Danny, a member of Justice for Black Lives. “She did what she wanted to do, which was harass protesters.”

The events from last year took place from May to August. Thomas was let go by the department in September. 

“If you can’t do a job properly as chief of police, one of the highest titles in a police department, how are we supposed to believe you can do your job as chief of staff?” said Aly, a member of Justice for Black Lives. 

In her role with GRPD, Thomas will not be a sworn officer. As chief of staff, which is a new role within the department, she’ll oversee the handling of GRPD’s budget.

Thomas will also back the department’s community engagement efforts. 

“There’s 36 other people that applied for the job aside from her,” Aly said. “Yet, they gave her the job. They knew what they were doing.”

Thomas will begin working in her new role on June 28. 

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