Grand Rapids police address recent recorded incidents; officer suspended

Posted at 2:24 PM, Mar 18, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids police addressed two recent incidents where residents recorded police in confrontations with other residents and have suspended one officer as a result.

Interim Police Chief David Kiddle made a presentation to the media Monday at police headquarters.

The first incident addressed took place March 11 on Lynch Avenue SW where an officer is seen pulling his gun on two teens.

Kiddle said the officer stopped the teens after watching them walk down a street where sidewalks were available to use, which is a violation of a Grand Rapids ordinance.

Body camera footage shows the officer explaining why he was stopping the teens and asking them for their names and date of birth. After the teens refused to comply with the officer’s commands, he decided to arrest them.

Kiddle said the officer grabbed one of the teens by the arm and one of them reached behind their back, leading to the officer pulling out his firearm.

“This is a good opportunity to remind the community that officers’ actions are determined by the individual they are having contact with,” Kiddle said. “The officers are trained to pick up on cues and escalate and de-escalate based on the individual’s action.”

Police say one person was taken into custody without further incident, and the other was taken home.

Kiddle said the incident was a “textbook example” of how officers are expected to conduct themselves in a “professional and tacitly safe manner.”

Cle Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, says the situation should have never gone as far as it did.

"There was absolutely no need in my opinion," Jackson said. "I think the officer escalated to the point of pulling his sidearm, totally unnecessary."

Jackson said he questions if the teens were racially profiled.

The second incident happened Sunday night on California Street at National Avenue NW.

Kiddle says an officer made a traffic stop for speeding and the vehicle pulled into a driveway, where the driver allegedly failed to provide his name or get out of the vehicle.

Police say the driver then started his vehicle, rolled up the window, started honking the horn and reaching around inside the vehicle. At that point, the officer broke the driver’s window to unlock the door, used pepper spray and removed the driver from the vehicle.

Video shows additional police arriving and using a stun gun, followed by an officer repeatedly striking the driver.

Kiddle said upon reviewing the incident, there were concerns over the actions of an assisting officer. He said the officer appears quick to escalate the situation beyond what was necessary.

“Regardless of the behavior or language, we have standards of professional conduct which clearly were not upheld in this situation,” he said. “I will not, nor will any member here at GRPD accept or tolerate force that is beyond which is necessary to safely make an arrest.”

The officer is on paid administrative leave while the GPRD’s Internal Affairs Unit investigates the situation.

Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack says he's happy an investigation is happening but is concerned about what accountability will be taken.

"We have to come out and admit when somebody that's in our employment has done something wrong," he said. "In my opinion, I see wrong, I see the excessive force and there's no excuse for it."

Womack also said the community needs to understand to cooperate with police officers when they are asked to do things.

The driver involved in the incident wasn’t seriously injured in the incident, and was arrested for outstanding warrants, driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest.

A child in the back seat of the vehicle during the incident wasn't harmed and taken to family members.