City responds to task force recommendations, announces next steps

Published on November 13, 2018

Chief of Police David Rahinsky (L) and Deputy Chief Eric Payne provide a briefing to the Grand Rapids City Commission on 11/13/18

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Police Chief David Rahinsky this morning presented the Grand Rapids Police  Department’s (GRPD) responses to the Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force’s 38 recommendations and 21st Century Policing LLC’s assessment of the department’s implementation of the recommendations from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He and City Manager Mark Washington also outlined next steps in GRPD’s ongoing efforts to strengthen relationships with the community, including revising the task force-recommended youth policy.

The task force’s recommendations – aimed at addressing disparate outcomes and strengthening community-police relations – were presented to the community last month. They fall in six areas of GRPD policy review: staffing and deployment, internal affairs, training, youth interactions, community policing and crime reduction, and recruiting and hiring. 

Rahinsky said GRPD supported or supported in part all of the task force’s recommendations. He also reiterated that the department did not wait for the task force’s final report to the community before taking action on several of the recommendations.

“The task force was a true collaborative effort between our community and our police department,” Rahinsky said. “This extensive joint listening and learning process has prepared us for moving forward.

“The needs and wants of our community drive what we do. We are committed to providing professional, progressive and responsive services to the public and continuously strengthening our relationship with the community.”

Among the steps already taken by GRPD was the implementation of a Youth Interaction Policy, which was developed by residents and police officers in consultation with 21st Century Policing and several community partners. Rahinsky is working with the City Attorney’s Office to strengthen the Youth Interaction Policy following recent public input. A revised policy will be shared with the community and incorporated into GRPD operations Dec. 1. 

“I am grateful for the community’s engagement in this work and for our police department’s commitment to listening to and acting on the public’s needs,” Washington said. “This partnership is key to a strong community-police relationship.”

In response to the staffing and deployment recommendations, which included a call for GRPD to conduct a comprehensive staffing and deployment analysis and an assessment of current and future staffing needs, Rahinsky said a consultant was selected through the City’s bid process and that the contract would come before the City Commission on Nov. 27. The study is expected to take place between December and March.

“This deployment study will help inform us of where the resources are needed,” Washington said. 

The task force also recommended an immediate analysis of GRPD’s 2016 traffic stop data. Washington said he asked Rahinsky to hold off on implementing a new traffic study and another academic study on the impact of GRPD’s community-police relations efforts – another recommendation by the Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force – until 2020 to allow the department to focus on implementing recommendations from the many studies that have already been conducted.

“We need time to put these studies and recommendations into action to see if what we’ve done has had measurable outcomes,” Washington said.

He also said while studies often informed policy, the City could not continue to study issues without action. 
“Otherwise, we are not informing policy but postponing policy changes,” Washington said.

He added there had been seven significant initiatives or studies related to community-police relations since 2015 with four completed and three pending.

“I am asking Chief Rahinsky to prioritize implementing the recommendations from the most recent initiative – the Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force – and determine appropriate staffing levels,” Washington said. “We are also prioritizing evaluating alternative policing strategies through the Cure Violence assessment and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) by year’s end.”

The City Commission in June approved an initial assessment from Cure Violence – a health model that looks at non-traditional responses to violence. CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach to reducing crime through urban and environmental design and the management and use of built environments. 

Additionally, policy consideration on the dangers of replica weapons will begin in January and Washington will present in April the Fiscal Year 2020 budget that will consider task force recommendations, staffing considerations and community policing.

Washington pointed to two recent incidents in the city involving replica weapons and said it was important to not only have training inside the police department but also have guidance for the community about its responsibility. He said it was critical for those who sell and use replica weapons to do so responsibly.

Rahinsky provided GRPD’s responses to the other task force recommendations, including:

Staffing and deployment
Recommendation: GRPD should participate in the Police Data Initiative and publicly post all stop and search data and analysis.

GRPD response: Rahinsky and other department leaders are participating in a variety of open data initiatives – including one that features a national dashboard set to launch in early 2019 . The dashboard will benchmark GRPD against other departments across the country. GRPD is considering joining the Police Data Initiative. 

Recruiting and hiring
Recommendation: The City and its police department should continue their recruitment outreach efforts with a specific focus on minority recruitment and retention.

GRPD response: Through its non-certified program in which police recruit candidates are hired by the City and sponsored to attend the Grand Valley State University Police Academy and its expanded recruitment efforts at historically black colleges, among other initiatives, recent recruit classes have been among the most diverse in the department’s history.

“These 38 recommendations will be a benchmark for the department’s continual improvement efforts,” Rahinsky said. 

They are among 73 unique recommendations that GRPD has received and acted on since the 2015 12-Point Plan to Strengthen Community and Police Relations. For the complete list of task force recommendations and GRPD’s responses, CLICK HERE

Rahinsky also outlined 21st Century Policing’s assessment of GRPD’s implementation of the recommendations from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The recommendations are grouped in six pillars: building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education, and officer safety and wellness.

The assessment concludes that GRPD has made notable efforts in adopting key 21st Century principles and implementing several presidential task force recommendations. They include:

  • All GRPD sworn officers have been outfitted with body worn cameras since 2017
  • GRPD has begun sharing more data with the community and, most recently, has published its Manual of Policy and Procedures online for the first time
  • GRPD has provided implicit bias training to all personnel
  • The department has developed a Youth Interaction Policy
  • GRPD has made the hiring of a qualified and diverse workforce a priority

The assessment also includes recommendations in the areas of community policing and crime reduction – which align with those of the Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force – and policy and oversight.

For policy and oversight, 21st Century Policing recommended the City and its police department work with the community to identify and adopt a civilian oversight model that best fits the Grand Rapids community.

Rahinsky pointed to the Civilian Appeal Board, Community Relations Commission and Public Safety Committee as some of the ways community members may provide direction to and oversight of GRPD. He said the Public Safety Committee should become more active in providing civilian oversight of the department. 

“We recognize that a diverse and forward-thinking community requires a transparent and accountable police department, and that’s exactly what we are striving to be,” Rahinsky said. “The structure needed to move forward already exists. I look forward to continuing to work with these boards and other members of the public to ensure a police department that is one with the community it serves.”

For GRPD’s complete responses to the assessment, CLICK HERE. For the full presentation on the department’s responses and next steps, CLICK HERE.