Grand Rapids rolls out neighborhood police officers

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Marian Berrera-Young is very much looking forward to a new neighborhood police program that launched in Grand Rapids four days ago.

Berrera-Young, director of the Baxter Neighborhood Association in Southeast Grand Rapids, believes nothing but good can come of it.

“It is always better if you know your ward and your officer,” she said. “People have to work together.”

The new program has assigned 124 Grand Rapids officers to specific geographic areas in the city. The 124 officers are enough to cover 92 percent of the city’s 33 police strikes.

An additional eight officers would be required to fully implement the plan.

The program is an idea that has been in development for a long time. It provides that commissioned officials can forge close relationships with their neighborhood and help solve problems there. Grand Rapids Police, Sgt. Dan Adams said.

This can include officials attending neighborhood meetings, reading to children in schools, playing basketball with neighborhood children, and meeting with business owners.

“This is where they’ll spend most of their time,” said Adams. “We are very excited about the possibilities.”

The neighborhood program emerged from a strategic police plan for 2020, which aims to curb crime and violence as well as to increase trust in the police.

Related: Grand Rapids patrolmen will become community police specialists in early 2021

“The officer will be part of the neighborhood and be confident of his or her success and a resource for residents and businesses,” said Eric Payne, Grand Rapids police chief, in a written statement. “The officers can work directly with the neighborhood staff, find solutions to important problems, and be a helpful lawyer.”

The plan has critics.

Defund GRPD, a group that became known in mid-2020, released a statement on Wednesday criticizing the initiative.

“Police reform is a renaming of the police and not an actual structural change in relation to the security of our communities. With this new model, money and resources keep control of people who are constantly oppressing our community. The Coalition Defund the GRPD recommends the city of Grand Rapids to transfer money and resources from useless police reforms to existing groups and organizations that work for the safety of the community.

“There are dozens of community safety groups and organizations that are run by people from these neighborhoods and have built trust with their residents,” the statement said.

Defund the GRPD also claims that more police force in neighborhoods tends to discourage some people, especially young black men, from seeking help from community organizations.

Grand Rapids police said they were working to obtain information about the neighborhood officials. You speak to the administrators of 311, a phone service that people call to get access to community services, to get the names of city officials on the caller’s dashboard.

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