Urban leaders: Unions missed mark after kids held at gunpoint

Public outcry after five black children detained at gunpoint by officers

Grand Rapids, teens stopped
This still taken from Facebook video shows Grand Rapids police hold teen boys at gunpoint. (March 24, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some community leaders on Thursday continued to call for changes at the Grand Rapids Police Department and an apology after officers detained five black children at gunpoint.

Leaders of the local chapter of the NAACP and LINC UP, an urban organization, both responded to a statement released Wednesday by police union leaders that said changes were not needed.

“If this is protocol, in terms of how you detain and treat teens and youth, then there probably needs to be a change in that protocol,” Cle Jackson, the president of the local NAACP, told 24 Hour News 8.

He argues police have discretion and wouldn’t have treated white kids the same.

The five black children — ages 12 through 14 — were walking home after playing basketball on March 24 when Grand Rapids officers ordered them to stop at gunpoint, handcuffed them and placed them in patrol cars. Police had responded to a call about a large fight and were looking for a teen reportedly armed with a gun. None of the five were armed.

GRPD Chief David Rahinsky and Mayor Rosalyn Bliss have apologized for the incident. But the local NAACP leader said the five also deserve an apology from the officers involved.

“That’s just, to us, the humane thing to do. It’s simple,” Jackson said.

Several hundred people showed up at a City Commission meeting Tuesday night, some calling for a change in police protocol and policy.

That led to a joint statement by the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association and Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association decrying the constant barrage of complaints and demonstrations against police.

“We say enough,” the union statement said in part.

Union leaders said there is no need for a policy change.

On Thursday, LINC UP, which works with urban neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, released a statement calling the unions’ position dangerous.

“The issue is not about having bad police officers,” Jeremy DeRoo, the executive director of the organization, said. “The issue is there’s a protocol in place that is causing significant damage to the relationship between the people and the police department.”

“How do we change procedures to ensure that police officers are kept safe when they’re dealing with very dangerous people but that the community members are kept safe and that children are kept safe when they’re having these interactions with the police officers?” Deroo continued. “Right now, we don’t have it right in Grand Rapids.”

The city is hosting a community meeting on April 19 to discuss the findings of a recent study on GRPD traffic stops. LINC UP is encouraging residents to attend.

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