GR urban leaders say more police relations talks ‘same old, same old’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two urban leaders in Grand Rapids say the city’s decision to plan for continued conversations about police-community relations is talk without substance.

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved the creation of a new Community Policing Advisory Council to improve the relationship, as well as plans to host a virtual town hall to listen to concerns and ideas from members of the community. 

Cle Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, feels it’s just more of the same. 

“My gut reaction is that this seems like the same old, same old,” Jackson told News 8 after the meeting. “I would ask what’s new, what’s different?”

Jeremy DeRoo, the executive director of community advocacy nonprofit LINC UP, pointed out the city has plenty of recommendations officials can work to implement. 

“I’m not hearing the city of Grand Rapids take ownership and responsibility for the changes it needs to make in order to resolve the issues that have been raised and concerns protesters have identified,” DeRoo said. “The city has now received, I think, 144 recommendations from four or five different consultants and work groups put together in order to make changes for the police department. They’ve implemented maybe a dozen of those.”

A timeline on LINC UP’s website tracking back to 2014 details a history of efforts, discussions and recommendations made to help improve the relationship between the Grand Rapids Police department and community members. 

“There is mistrust in this community with the police department and when you have a public body that’s not trusted, it is that body’s responsibility to take the steps, actions and measures to return the trust in the community, not the other way around,” DeRoo explained. 

he and Jackson agreed the peaceful protest that happened downtown Saturday evening must not be conflated with the destruction that broke out around 9 p.m.

“I don’t think it’s fair to connect those actions with the individuals that participated in the protests earlier on. They’re really different things,” DeRoo added. 

They say the damage and hurt caused should not detract from the message being sent to city leaders and the Grand Rapids Police Department.

“Enough is enough. I think we are, as a community, as a state, as a country, we’re over this,” Jackson said. “I don’t think the solutions are really that complicated. It’s just that people have to want to put in the work to do what’s actually right.”

Jackson reiterated the city has heard recommendations from experts and needs to take action.

“All of these things clearly lay out what should be done and how to do those things and how to move the needle forward. It’s just that, again, the city has to execute on the plans that have been provided to them with a robust input from community already and say, ‘OK, let’s start here,’” the NAACP leader added.