A political framework to advance equitable policing

Equity PAC was created in early 2016 as a response to an obscure city commission decision around policing. In the past year, we’ve seen Grand Rapids police hold innocent children at gunpoint and then respond with defiance, a third party study that found Grand Rapids police to be racially biased in their traffic stops, and a lawsuit against the Kent County Sheriff’s Department for cooperating with immigration enforcement. These policing outcomes demonstrate a significant bias that need to be addressed.

Even more, there are few clearer local examples of how policing bias creates inequitable outcomes than the recently released phone conversations between members of the Grand Rapids Police Department. The tapes reveal officers working together to cover up a drunk driving offense of a former prosecutor. The misuse of discretion favoring power, the lack of concern for the crash victim, and the willingness to lie and manipulate the system are so evident that many in Equity PAC are rightfully calling for an independent investigation into the recordings to begin rebuilding public trust. 

There are no lack of policy ideas and groups that are working to advance equitable police policy, and we encourage you to get involved and give to them. However, we also need individuals in office with specific skills, approaches, and an openness to new police policy ideas and reform. We asked, what are the characteristics of a city or county commissioner or state legislator we can trust with our endorsement to advance equitable policing policy? To answer this question, Equity PAC pulled together a group of approximately 15 citizens, community leaders and public leaders to develop a profile for public leadership in policing. Here are three of the primary factors and themes that emerged from that discussion:

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Hires for New City Manager and County Administrator will shape the policy landscape for decades to come

Over the next several months, both the Kent County Commission and the Grand Rapids City Commission will replace their outgoing administrators. Grand Rapids will replace retiring Greg Sundstrom who has served as City Manager since 2009. Kent County will replace retiring Daryl Delabbio after 22 years of service as County Administrator. Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt has been appointed to serve as interim administrator and controller starting July 1. These two positions are arguably the most powerful governmental executive positions in the county.

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Five reasons you need to be at Tuesday's Equity PAC endorsement meeting

Local politics is more important than ever for equity issues, and this Tuesday’s Equity PAC endorsement meeting is an excellent cross section of candidates and millages on November's ballot that will impact our region. This meeting is open to the public; however, you need to be an Equity PAC member to vote and submit input that will be used by the board to consider endorsements.

RSVP here for Tuesday’s Endorsement Meeting

What: Equity PAC Endorsement Meeting

When: this Tuesday, August 29th from 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Where: Tacqueria El Rincon, 2055 28th St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508

Who: Open to the public, with topics especially relevant to those living in East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker, and Wyoming.

Here are 5 reasons why you need to be at this endorsement meeting:

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EquityPAC Endorses Longtime Community Advocate Kurt Reppart for GR City Commission in Ward 1

EquityPAC, a political organization working to increase the number of equitable officials, policies, and practices in West Michigan, proudly announced their endorsement of Kurt Reppart for the Grand Rapids City Commission election in the First Ward. They believe his longstanding commitment as a community leader in Grand Rapids’ west side, and his strong grasp over a wide variety of issues make him the best candidate to support those who’ve been left out and left behind in the city. 

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EquityPAC Endorses Both Jones and VandenBerg in GR City Commission Race for Ward 2

EquityPAC, a political organization working to increase the number of equitable officials, policies, and practices in West Michigan, proudly announced their endorsement of both Tami VandenBerg and Joe Jones for the upcoming Grand Rapids City Commission election in the Second Ward. Though the two are running for one spot, there was a consensus that either candidate would advance an equity-focused agenda if they won.

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Equity PAC’s endorsement process is unapologetically about advancing equity

On Monday, June 26th at 6pm, Equity PAC members and the public will convene at Public Thread ​(906 South Division Ave) ​to hear from Grand Rapids’ 1st Ward candidates Christine Mullan and Kurt Reppart, and 2nd Ward candidates Joe Jones and Tami VandenBerg. 

The Equity PAC leadership is excited to host these candidates. In our review, each of them represent the kind of people we hope will run in future elections in West Michigan. They fight for just and fair inclusion for all people. They each have a visible, demonstrated history of working toward a community where all people can participate. We believe each would uphold Equity PAC core values such as economic justice, elimination of racial profiling, advancing LGBTQ rights and using a feminist lens to examine policy.


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WZZM13: Group calls on city government to set realistic goals for diversifying workforce

"I don't think the timelines are clear... we hear a lot of things like 'its going to take time' and that we cannot find minority candidates," said Equity PAC Co Chair, Jeremy Moore. "And so our question becomes well transparently what are your goals? And how long is it going to take? But also the question looms where are you looking for those minority candidates?" 

Moore said Equity recognizes that this is not going to happen over night, but that there needs to be a sense of urgency.

"If not, we are going to have the same issue for the next 20 something years," Moore said. 

View the full WZZM13 news story, published December 15, 2016, by clicking here

Where are our equitable, elected city leaders in the face of inequity?

Call your Mayor and City Commissioners and demand that police officers apologize to 5 unarmed boys

Tag Mayor Bliss and your two commissioners on Facebook and ask “The community has spoken; do you feel the five boys deserve an apology?” #whatsyourstance

On Tuesday evening at City Hall, 46 people lined up to give their 3 minutes on why they were drastically concerned with the latest incident by Grand Rapids Police. The mothers, fathers, teenagers, family members, supporters — a majority people of color — spoke with great concern and passion and were supported by over 200 people in the crowd. None of the 46 people supported the police actions that took place against the five unarmed boys.


After the meeting, Grand Rapids Police Chief Rahinsky told MLive, “The officers didn’t do anything wrong. They acted on articulate facts from a witness moments earlier who said he saw them hand a gun to each other.” He said it would be inappropriate to allow the police officers to apologize, even though the Chief already apologized to the family on behalf of the department.

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Equity PAC strongly endorses schools millage, opportunity for state advocacy

After two meetings with the Kent Intermediate School District and other leaders on the Strong Schools, Strong Communities millage, The Equity PAC membership has voted unanimously to support in an electronic vote. This is only the second time that 100% of membership voting has done so in the affirmative for any ballot initiative or candidate.

After weighing the issues, the dominant reasoning expressed among members for endorsing was two-fold. First, there is no alternative for districts to the lack of state funding. Second, this millage will lock in funding to districts on the periphery of Grand Rapids that are seeing an increase in students from low-income situations.

One member said,

“I have two kids in GRPS (Grand Rapids Public Schools). I know the need is there. And I know our state legislature has been gutting education funding for years.”

While another said,

“…I am more concerned about not passing it than passing it. As folks are displaced (out of the city into outlying districts), I think it’s imperative that districts can accommodate influx.”


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Rush to find $5M for “police community relations” brings questions for equity-minded citizens

Less than two months ago, Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom asked the City Commission to fund recommendations resulting from Lamberth Consulting’s traffic study on racial bias. The City Commission rejected this “knee jerk” reaction. First Ward Commission Jon O’Connor said, “I don’t think it’s good to react with knee-jerk reactions to things. I think we should go methodically, with intentionality as we make these decisions.”

The leadership at Equity PAC agrees that intentionality is vitally important in addressing police violence and bias against citizens. Which is why we are surprised as to why the City Commissioners would, on one hand, reject a “knee jerk” reaction to recommendations from an objective researcher, but push forward a $5M allocation with little direct community engagement on short timelines and no specific plan on how the money will be used. 


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