Opportunities for pastors to engage in solutions for community and police relations
On Thursday, March 22, GRAP pastors met at One Church Empowerment Center to hear from Gwendolyn G. Moffitt, Community Outreach Specialist for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR). Moffitt spoke about the work of the MDCR in general, and about its role in convening the West Michigan ALPACT group.
We have heard the ALPACT group mentioned at several meetings, so this was a great opportunity to hear about it in detail.
"The mission of West Michigan Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT) is to examine issues affecting police and community relations and ensure equitable enforcement of laws, including: racial profiling, police discretion, use of force, recruitment and training, citizen complaint processes, community partnering, and police leadership and management disciplinary practices; to develop recommendations and best practices designed to enhance the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve; and to present and recommend implementation strategies to law enforcement and community groups. ALPACT shall not lobby any elected official or regulator nor advocate any legislative or regulatory proposal."
West Michigan's ALPACT group is one of ten that meet regularly across the state. Each group has a law enforcement co-chair and a community co-chair. Those West Michigan co-chairs are Connie M. Dang, Director of Multicultural Affairs at Grand Valley State University, and Grand Rapids Police Chief David M. Rahinsky. Because of policing events over the past year, the West Michigan group is shifting from a regional focus to more of a Grand Rapids focus; it is also going from meeting every other month to meeting monthly.
Moffitt emphasized that anyone can attend ALPACT meetings:
"We are trying to find a time when more people can come. Now, the group is more heavily weight on the law enforcement side, so we need more community people! The Battle Creek ALPACT group has 70 to 80 people at their meetings. This isn't a by-invitation-only group--the more people the better. Tell the people in your congregations to come. It is a forum to hold people accountable, but you have to be there."
She also clarified the role of the MDCR: "We at the department are neutral. We encourage both law enforcement and community members to voice their concerns and see whether we can come to agreement."
The remainder of the meeting focused on the results of a GRAP team's presentation to ALPACT about community policing concerns, and the result of the prioritization votes by those present at that February ALPACT meeting. These concerns were put into ten categories:
Those categories were further combined to form three working groups:
Groups are forming now. If you wish to volunteer for one of these, please email Gwendolyn Moffitt at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also noted that she is available to come to any of our congregations to speak about any MDCR-related issue. About these groups, Moffitt said,
"Grand Rapids likes to meet and study, meet and study, meet and study. We're not trying to take two years to do this, but this is a great opportunity for your involvement and your parishioners' involvement."
The larger ALPACT group will be meeting on April 18, May 16, and June 20 before taking a summer break. The April and May meetings are from 1:00 - 3:00pm at the Kent ISD, Education Services Building, Cedar Room. 2930 Knapp Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525 – Parking Lot #11.
We hope to see you at GRAP's next meeting, April 19, 11:30am - 1:00pm (location to be determined).
One of our pastors also introduced us to the work of Seeds of Promise, an organization that looks to empower urban residents of Southeast Grand Rapids to direct their own strategies to create a self-sustaining, self-transforming neighborhood. They are looking to work with churches to connect them with community stakeholders. You can find them on Facebook and on their website.
Father Geaney invited everyone to the ecumenical prayer service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Light that Drives Out Darkness, on Monday, April 9 at 6:00pm, at Cathedral of Saint Andrew, 215 Sheldon Blvd SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503. For more information, click here.