Expert criticizes GRPD study indicating bias

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 18:43:08-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A recent study that detailed a racism problem within the Grand Rapids Police Department is being disputed by a expert researcher from another consulting company.

In April, Lamberth Consulting released a report that showed, according to their data recorded at 20 of the highest concentrated areas in the city for traffic stops, that African-American drivers were almost twice as likely to get pulled over than drivers of another race.

The study’s results sparked public outcry, but Monday, spokesmen for GRPD presented a critique that harshly criticizes some of the data and the methods used to collect it.

“The rationale for the GRPOA and GRPCOA release is not as a retort or denial to the original report,” said Andy Bingel, President of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, which oversees the needs of officers on patrol and sergeants. “In a politically charged of an atmosphere as we’re experiencing right now, we as a community cannot afford to take incomplete viewpoints on important issues like this.”

The critique was penned by Dr. Richard Johnson, a PhD working with Dolan Consulting Group. The expert research gatherer noted several inaccuracies and issues in the methods used by Lamberth to collect their information.

“The way Lamberth Consulting conducted the details of this data collection process differed in ways used by other research teams,” Dr. Johnson wrote in his critique, “and these differences may have produced biased data.”

Read the full critique of the Lamberth study here

One of Johnson’s main issues was the personnel Lamberth hired to conduct research. According to their study, the consulting group brought in nine observers who received brief training on data collection. Of them, they list four as African-American, three as white, one as Hispanic, and one as Middle Eastern. Traditionally, Johnson said, these roles are filled by undergrad or graduate students in a statistics, or a field comparable to the study’s focus.

However, Johnson states that Lamberth failed to identify their observer’s qualifications. Furthermore, the critique indicates that Lamberth extended invitations to apply to several people who attended public meetings and openly expressed a “significant amount of anger, frustration and mistrust in GRPD,” according to their study.

Among other concerns, Dr. Johnson also expressed issues with the non-inclusion of national traffic data, additional lighting for the study influencing traffic patterns, and no peer review upon completion of the study.

“It seemed like after the report came out it was a condemnation of the men and women of the Grand Rapids police department,” said Bingel, “and it was a shock to us because it just didn’t fairly represent how we do police work.”

GRPD has called for a third party review of the critique, while also offering an invitation to lawmakers to work with them on issues beyond face value of the study.

“I would like to call on community leaders to help us build a bond with those that are less supportive,” said Mike Maycroft, President of the Grand Rapids Command Officers Association. “With their help, we can make Grand Rapids a model when it comes to police community-relations.”

Police personnel are expected to introduce more concrete ideas for mending police/community relations at a city council hearing tomorrow.