GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As part of the city’s 12 Step Plan to improve community and police relations, the Grand Rapids Police Department brought in a specialist helping train police and community leaders on the science of human bias, and how to have positive relationships with the public.
“To state the obvious, this department wants to be the best of our size in the country and this is another step in that direction,” said GRPD Chief Dave Rahinsky.
Since 2011, GRPD has made a number of changes to help this vision, including the implementation and use of body cameras, offering weekly coffee hours with local officers, even asking the community for input on its new mission statement.
Friday, Assoc. Professor Lorie Fridell from the University of South Florida was brought in to help facilitate GRPD in their Fair and Impartial Police training, a day-and-a-half focused on transparency and building trust between the community and its officers.
“When the officers are out, they’re having positive contact with the homeless, transgendered, prostitutes and this allows them to reduce their biases and stereotypes,” said Assoc. Professor Fridell.
Fridell specializes in Criminology, teaching GRPD what she calls the science of bias.
“This includes an understanding there might be an explicit bias like racism, but even well-intentioned people have implicit biases that can impact their behavior that has impact on their perspective.”
The Assoc. Professor saying the idea is to eliminate those subconscious levels of bias, stereotypes and prejudices. Community activists from the Urban League, NAACP and the Hispanic community were also in attendance, now looking to spread the knowledge as community ambassadors.
“What I want to do is strengthen that bond between the police and the community, and that’s not something that can be done overnight,” Chief Rahinsky said. “We need to continue to open doors and make relationships that are long-lasting and built on trust.”
Chief Rahinsky said there’s always room for improvement, which is why the department will soon disclose an action plan based on everything they’ve learned to one day build a better and safer Grand Rapids.