Community protection: Commissioner talks weapons for first responders, GRPD

Posted at 12:06 AM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 00:06:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Cops on the streets outgunned by bad guys. It's an issue coming to head in Grand Rapids.

We told you in June, M-4 Service Rifles for first responders were in the budget, but the city commission is still debating whether it's appropriate or not.

It's an issue becoming real for many, considering the tragic shooting in San Bernardino on Wednesday, as well as the recent international terrorist attacks.

Those attacks, are changing the way police departments across the country respond to emergencies.

"Departments have morphed into equipping first responders, the men and women on the street who are closest to the phone call, to be able to respond in a tactical response and protect the public with all the tools at their disposal," GRPD's Chief, David Rahinsky said.

Currently, the rifles are only issued to the department’s Special Response Team, or SRT, leaving some wondering whether law enforcement would be prepared to stop a massacre right here in Grand Rapids.

"This weapon [service rifle], not having it, could put us at a tactical disadvantage if we had to face someone that did have it," Chief Rahinsky said. "I definitely feel it’s time to move forward with this purchase in light of recent events and really historic events. We are making this request with the hope we never have to utilize these weapons."

Whether or not the GRPD will get those weapons lies in the hands of city commissioners, who are still figuring out a plan.

"I think some commissioners had some concerns in regards to our relationship with the community," said outgoing First Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski. " I don't think it was pushed to the side at all, we rather do it right than rush it through and do it wrong."

However, Gutowski says he hopes the commission finalizes a deal soon.

"I want our police officers to have every tool possible to protect the public and protect themselves," Gutowski said.

We also reached out to Commissioner Lumpkins on Thursday. He’s one of the commissioners opposed to the budget plan. Lumpkins declined to comment until he hears more information from both the California shooting and the budget from the police department, which would cost the city approximately $300,000.

"As a professional we recognize weapons in any form, whether it's a handgun, shotgun, or long-gun, is intimidating to the public. We're not going to stop working towards transparency, we're not going to slow down our opportunities for engagement, this is just a step in the right direction in terms of protecting the public from a tactical stand point," Rahinsky said.

The commission is set to vote on the budget December 15th.