GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the nation struggles to comprehend the violence and the senseless deaths of black men and police officers this week, the Grand Rapids community stood together and addressed these tragedies.
From Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, to Dallas: grainy cell phone videos have become a painful eye-witness account of all too frequent tragedy.
Friday the Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky, Grand Rapids NAACP President Cle Jackson, and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss held a joint press conference to discuss systemic racism, the role of law enforcement in the community and these heartbreaking deaths.
“This is not about an issue of race, we know that black people and people of color have been profiled for centuries," said Jackson. "This is an issue of humanity.”
Each gave their condolences to the victims and their families, Bliss saying, “We are committed to non-violence and we are committed to unity.”
Rahinsky says since January 2015, the Grand Rapids community has made gains in its 12-point plan, improving police-community relations.
“Everything from body worn cameras to bias based training to traffic studies, this department, this community and this commission has really taken the lead in ensuring public safety transparency, accountability and trust," said Rahinsky.
Widening the lens beyond the greater Grand Rapids area, this was a call to action to recognize systemic racism and issues with policing.
“The bigger issue is that we really need to get a handle on addressing and improve community police relations across this country," said Jackson. "Where is this level of outcry when black men and women and other people of color and kids are being executed at the hands of law enforcement?”
Rahinsky followed and said, “This is an opportunity for us to be introspective as a profession, for us to be introspective as a nation, in terms of what we need to do next.”
The GRPD will be doubling patrols this weekend and Rahinsky said he has reached out to local protest organizers. He said he expects the rallies to be peaceful as they have been, and hopes law enforcement will be part of the protests to send the message again, this violence must stop.