Grand Rapids Police Department changes fingerprinting procedures

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Police Department on Tuesday announced it is eliminating the standard policy of photographing and fingerprinting individuals who don't have identification.

Chief David Rahinsky made the announcement, effective immediately.  Officers will no longer take fingerprints as a "matter of routine practice" in the field.

"With the advent of body-worn cameras and the fact that we've listened to the community ... we're moving ahead with what we consider best practices," he told reporters. "Like any profession, we listen to the people who we serve, and involve and make sure we're responsive."

However, Rahinsky said individuals without ID who have been issued a citation or who exhibit behavior classified as "highly suspicious" will still be fingerprinted at the officer's discretion.

With the new procedure, the number of fingerprints collected by police could be reduced from over 1,000 per year to just a few dozen, according to Rahinksy.

"I think it served the department and the community well for the time that it was in place," he said. "That being said, we're in a new era now, and the new technology, the body worn cameras is really a game changer. It's going to give us an image of the person we're coming into contact with while being much less intrusive."

The chief said the change in the procedure is the result of feedback from the community on relations with police. Rahinksy said the practice has simply become outdated, given it was created largely in response to crack cocaine epidemic during the late 1970s and 80s.

A lawsuit was filed against the City of Grand Rapids and one of its police captains earlier in the year after the officer apparently took a photo and thumb print of a teen who claimed to have done nothing wrong. The lawsuit has since been dismissed.

Rahinksy told reporters Tuesday the lawsuit didn't drive the change.

"We were looking at this practice before the litigation and the lawsuit actually exonerated the practice," he said.

"But having said that, just because something's legal doesn't mean that it's best practice, and as a community and as a department, we're continually striving for to improve, and I think this is a step in the right direction for both."

Reverend Robert Dean, who has been involved in city politics for decades while also working with the city's urban league, called the changes meaningful.

“Just the fact officers are being sensitive, and our chief is being sensitive to the needs of all the community, and that we’re not just representing part of the community," Dean said. “I think it really steps away from the former mentality of basically a ‘police state.’”

City Manager Greg Sundstrom also expressed  support of the change in P&P protocols by the police department.

“There is an enormous spotlight on law enforcement due to national issues that has also, unfortunately, impacted the public’s relationship and confidence in our own police department,” Sundstrom said.

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  • Sandy

    What a crock. The reason they are giving up routine fingerprinting without a fight is that they do routine DNA swabbing and don’t really need to fingerprint anymore anyway. So the front they are putting on like they are all pro-civil liberties is an act. It is a police state mentality, and it is a police state mentality because the feds MANDATE that they follow police state procedures, removing civil liberties in the name of public safety and security.

    You can’t have both public safety AND freedom. That is the bottom line. Our founding fathers believed that freedom was more important. Most Americans believe that as well. But there is not as much money to be made in freedom as there is in safety and security, so our federal government is now pushing the latter on an unwilling public which doesn’t want it, and has been voting against it for years. That is a treasonous violation of our Constitution and negates the legal validity of the administration itself, but no one in the international community is standing up for the American people and speaking out about it to the UN.

    If these terrorist organizations really wanted to bring the US to its knees, all they really need to do is go to the UN and speak up on our behalf, point out that the US Government is a rogue and illegitimate administration that is in violation of its own Constitution, and demand that the government be dismantled and a new legitimate government be formed…just like we do to so many other countries. They don’t have to bomb anyone…just use the globally accepted political mechanizations that are already in place. Russia would help, China would help. Why they haven’t thought to do this yet is a mystery to me.

    • Billy

      “The reason they are giving up routine fingerprinting without a fight is that they do routine DNA swabbing and don’t really need to fingerprint anymore anyway.”

      Shhhhhh!!! You weren’t supposed to figure that out.

  • Commonsense

    Who are we really trying to keep happy here? Nothing but a public relations move that doesn’t really protect against the trash that’s out there. However, it keeps city hall happy.

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