For the past month protesters, activists, community members, and organizations have joined voices to demand that the City of Grand Rapids take action on police reform and funding. In that time, cities and communities across the country have stepped forward. They’ve committed to defunding these broken systems and reallocating resources as they attempt to re-imagine the very idea of public safety. Yet, here in Grand Rapids we’re still waiting for a summary of studies and recommendations that were made over the last 5 years. It’s been 30 days since the community has requested a detailed line item breakdown of the police budget. We haven’t received one nor a timetable on when that can happen.
It’s important to recognize that throughout this moment, Commissioners Jones, Reppart and Ysasi have publicly backed reducing the Grand Rapids Police Department budget to the charter mandated 32% of the City’s General Fund. Now, we believe it’s time the Mayor and fellow commissioners follow this example: heed the collective voices of the community and help lead us towards true reform of public safety.
As stated on June 15th, Equity PAC stands behind and unapologetically supports local organizers in their efforts to ensure immediate action in decreasing and reallocating funds of the GRPD. The main opposition to this effort has been the Grand Rapids Police Union (GRPOA). They’ve attempted to create a narrative that decreasing funding to the mandated 32% would eliminate 1/3rd of the police force. They’ve used fearmongering and scare tactics in an effort to convince the community this reduction in funding would jeopardize people’s safety. As stated, numerous organizations and activists have repeatedly asked the City and GRPD for a detailed budget. This is in part to try and fact check these assertions. But as of yet none has been produced.
However, when looking at past budgets and police reports that are available, it leads us to conclude that, in fact, none of the unions' fears are accurate. Reducing funding of the GRPD to the 32% mandate would simply require that we return to the budgeting model from 2015. This was a point in time where the GRPD was funded at over $46 million, had 292 sworn officers, 422 total full and part time employees, and the city’s crime numbers followed national trends by continuing to fall as they have for decades. These personnel and crime numbers are virtually identical to the most recent data available from the GRPD. As you can see, this completely undercuts everything the union is trying to say. We won’t be less safe by reallocating these funds. And though some personnel and positions will inevitably need to be laid off or eliminated, the argument that it equates to 1/3rd of the police force is simply not true.
This brings us to what we can do now
The next opportunity we have to move down a path of reallocation and reform is next Tuesday, July 7th at the City Commission meetings.
We ask that you please join us as we support community partners Urban Core Collective (UCC) and LINC Up in contacting the Mayor, City Manager and 6 City Commissioners. Let them know you support the leadership of Commissioners Jones, Reppart and Ysasi in reducing the police budget to the mandated 32%. Request they take the following actions at their July 7th meetings:
Grand Rapids City Commissioners: make a motion to reduce police funding to the 32% requirement.
- To that end, we recommend that the City of Grand Rapids impose a hiring freeze for the Grand Rapids Police Department. City Departments have implemented hiring freezes due to the current budget crisis and GRPD should participate as well. This would result in an anticipated $2 million in savings this year alone.
- We’ve seen a huge increase in the police budgets over the years. A return to the 2015 policing structure would account for the rest of the funds necessary to get GRPD back to 32% of the City’s general fund
- City Manager Mark Washington: prepare a budget that reflects the 32% requirement for approval at the next City Commission gathering.
- Grand Rapids Police Department: release the full, unedited version of the 2020-2021 budget to be reviewed publicly and by City Commissioners. To date, there is no public record of the Grand Rapids Police Department budget that details spending line items
- Operate in full transparency as the City prepares to release the police recommendation report within the next 10 days, as well as the full plan for structural change of the GRPD.
Please Contact City leadership
Their emails are:
- [email protected] - Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
- [email protected] - Manager Mark Washington
- [email protected] - Jon O’Connor, 1st Ward Commissioner
- [email protected] - Kurt Reppart, 1st Ward Commissioner
- [email protected] - Joe Jones, 2nd Ward Commissioner
- [email protected] - Milinda Ysasi, 2nd Ward Commissioner
- [email protected] - Nathaniel Moody, 3rd Ward Commissioner
- [email protected] - Senita Lenear, 3rd Ward Commissioner
As always, thank you for your advocacy.
- Equity PAC Leadership Team