Community discussion leads to criticisms of police

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of Grand Rapids pastors invited the community for what was labeled blessing for both black men and police officers.

But Friday’s meeting on Grand Rapid’s Southeast side was sharply critical of police, including the decision of the police chief to “double-up” officers on patrol following the slaying of officers in Dallas.

“We doubled up our patrol. That’s an act of aggression. Not an act of compassion,” Jerry Bishop, pastor at LifeQuest ministries, told the people gathered Friday evening.

Earlier in the day, Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky stressed the importance of building relationships at a press conference.

The chief and Mayor Rosalynn Bliss attended the meeting where they heard some sharply critical critiques of the department and policing in general.

“I think we are owed an apology at a knee-jerk reaction,” Bishop said.

Described as “a service of lament, confession, repentance, and commitment to justice, for dialogue, and for a blessing for both black men and police officers,” about 50 people showed up for the event called “Shalom for the City, Shalom for the Nation.”

Grand Rapids Association of Pastors, a multi-cultural, multi-denominational coalition of pastors organized the gathering here at LifeQuest Ministries near Hall Street and Kalamazoo Avenue SE.

“What happens if two young men, that have legal permits to carry, open carry, they doubled up?” Bishop said. “How would we feel about that?”

“I don’t want that to be misconstrued. We doubled up in an abundance of caution,” Rahinsky said.

The chief said in addition to the shooting in Dallas, this week marks anniversaries for two horrific events that affected police in Grand Rapids: the July 2007 murder of police officer Robert Kozminski and the July 2011 shooting rampage that left seven dead.

“We doubled-up as much for the emotional support of having someone in the car alongside you during the course of a 12-hour shift for guys,” the chief explained.

Rahinsky said it is his intention to make sure that his city does not suffer as so many others have.

“I think really Grand Rapids is going to be in the spotlight and we’re going to be in the spotlight for doing things right,” Rahinsky said

He said there has been steps in place to make sure the police and the community are untied.

“So there’s no reason that Grand Rapids can’t be the exception.”

There were many in attendance who recognized the work done by department.

“But I think he has come in and sat down and talked with his officers. Are there some changes that still need to be made in the police department? Yes there is. Do I think he is going to make those changes? Yes, I do,” said Nathaniel Moody, a pastor and G-RAP member.

The police chief and the leadership at tonight’s meeting agreed that they have a lot to talk about — and they plan to do just that in the coming days and weeks.

“Y’know, we need these men and women to help us, but we also need people in the community to look up to our policemen, to respect them — I think it’s a mutual thing,” said area resident Eddie Jenkins.

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