The Grand Rapids Police Department wants to rebuild trust with the community. So it started a pilot program that it hopes will help do that.
The department is using principles from a book called The Speed of Trust to bridge the gap between community members and itself.
Eric Payne, the deputy chief of police in Grand Rapids, says communication between police and community is most important.
“Once we establish that, I think that’s where relationships get built, and then trust comes from that,” Payne said.
The department hopes that eventually, each of the city’s police officers will be paired with one resident for more weekly discussions. The department has more than 300 officers.
Lyonel LaGrone, a policy liaison in Grand Rapids who was invited to join the pilot program, says this is a sign that the department is trying to change for the better.
“Any time you have a police department that has been subjected to the type of scrutiny that the GRPD has and they still want to reach out and get the community members and community leaders together to meet with police, I think it’s a good start to fixing issues,” LaGrone said.
The department faced plenty of scrutiny over a traffic study was released last year that found black drivers were twice as likely to be pulled over as other drivers.
The community backlash intensified after five unarmed young black boys were held at gunpoint. The department faced yet more criticism before the year ended when an 11-year-old unarmed black girl was arrested and put in the back of a police cruiser.
LaGrone says initiatives like this one are the police department’s way of trying to reach out to members of the community who feel they have been wronged.
“I think it’s an olive branch that we should all take advantage of and see where it goes,” he said.
The department says that this will hopefully build trust over time, especially with members of marginalized communities.