GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Soon all the officers at the Grand Rapids Police Department will be trained to become community specialists, said Sgt. Dan Adams. The training is a part of their new community policing initiative, which is one of the main elements in their three-year strategic plan.
“We want to work very closely in partnership with the neighborhoods to find out specifically what the issues are, where we can help,” said Sgt. Adams during an interview on Wednesday October 7. “So we’re really going to get down to the neighborhood level and we’re going to do it differently than we have in the past.”
Sgt. Adams said each officer will be assigned a beat or a neighborhood and they’ll participate in the department’s problem-oriented training, which focuses on working with community members in identifying problems and then coming up with the resources to tackle them.
“You’re going to see us out there but we’re going to be more engaged,” Sgt. Dan Adams said. “We’re going to be knocking on doors.”
Sgt. Adams said they’re ‘thinking outside the box’ in ways to connect with community members. So far they’ve created an outreach team dedicated to helping people experiencing homelessness. There’s also another group that’s focused solely on mental health.
“It’s also to increase our engagement with the neighborhoods you know, to get out of the cars, to get off the bikes, get into the schools, get into the neighborhood meetings, meet with the kids,” Sgt. Adams said.
He added that GRPD created this initiative as a direct result of conversations they’ve had with community members and organizations, like the NAACP, the Hispanic Center and LINC Up.
“I’m glad to hear that some of the issues have been addressed but it still leaves the community wanting,” said Willie Patterson, the director of engagement with LINC Up, a community-based organization. “It’s just no real concrete measures of accountability and that’s what the community is looking for.”
Patterson said the community has been working closely with the police for the past five years, discussing a variety of topics in multiple meetings, some that included Chief Eric Payne.
However, he’s felt there’s been no resolution.
“Relationships are great but accountability is even greater,” Patterson said during an interview on Wednesday. “So if we can get some accountability on the police force for their wrongdoings, we can start to move forward.”
Patterson said the best way to move forward is by the police being transparent about their work and to include the community’s request for accountability. It’ll lead to a trusting relationship.
Trust is what GRPD is hoping to build, Sgt. Adams said.
“We just want the community to know don’t be afraid to come up, talk to your officer, send information, share concerns, ideas, get involved,” Sgt. Adams said. “You’re just going to really see us. And, see us more approachable and don’t be afraid to reach out because we’re here to help.”