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Grand Rapids decides to spend more money on improving community relations with police

Grand Rapids police officer directing traffic.
Flickr user lincolnblues
Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Grand Rapids will add an extra million dollars in next year’s budget to improve community and police relations. But city leaders still haven't decided how that money will be spent.

In April, many people in the city were outraged over an incident in which Grand Rapids police officers held five unarmed black boys at gunpoint. That same month, the city released a study showing that police were more likely to pull over black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

So yesterday, city commissioners decided to add a million dollars per year over the next five years for that goal. They just didn't decide how to spend the money.

Grand Rapid police chief David Rahinsky says he'd like to see more community police officers.

"People love the community policing specialists," he says. "Unfortunately, those officers work Monday through Friday, day shift. What we’ve asked for the last couple years here is an evening shift, to cover weekends. And what that would take is twelve officers. So I’m hoping that ultimately that can come to fruition."

Others in the community say more officers isn’t the answer. 

Jackie Hernandez told commissioners at a meeting last night that more discussion is needed.

"Until we are genuine about the type of relationships we want to do, nothing is going to change," she said. "You’re going to put a band-aid on something that needs surgery, like major surgery."

The city has scheduled a series of public meetings to talk about police relations starting next week.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.