On Thursday, October 19, Pastor Adam Lipscomb hosted the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors at City Life Church for a meeting focused on two recent policing issues:
Cle Jackson, President of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP chapter spoke with GRAP about these issues, and about actions local pastors can take regarding community and police relations.
Excessive Force Incident
The discussion began with Pastor David Mays reading aloud the October 3 Community Alert released by the NAACP. Here are the first two paragraphs:
First, we applaud the officers(s) who reported their fellow colleague, Officer Kevin Penn, for what they perceived as excessive forced based on departmental training protocol and procedure related to the detainment of any suspect regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability.
Jackson reiterated the gratitude for the officers who didn't remain silent, and who reported their fellow officer's behavior. He acknowledged that it would've been difficult for the prosecutor to get a conviction, but wanted the office to go ahead with a prosecution for three main reasons:
Attempted Cover-up Incident
On November 19, 2016 then-Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper caused a car accident while drunk, but the responding officers (and other officers they consulted) decided not to give him a breathalyzer test, nor to arrest him; they wrote him a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and drove him to a local residence. The cover-up came to light two weeks later. After an internal investigation, Chief Rahinsky recommended that all three officers involved be fired. However, the City Manager's office has discretion about whether to follow that recommendation; they chose to fire one officer, and to give the other two a 30-day suspension. The office made this decision without hearing the phone recordings of the officers as they discussed the situation (the in-car and body cam videos were incomplete).
Jackson was concerned that the City Manager's office would go against the recommendations of the police chief--the one with policing experience, and with the fullest knowledge of the situation. He said that the NAACP will be asking the City Commission to reconsider the 30-day suspensions.
What Can Pastors Do?
When asked how a group like the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors could respond, Jackson said:
When you see B.S., call it out. It doesn't have to be you as a group, just you as an individual. Call [city officials] in. You pay their salary. Just start responding. It's your right to go down to any meeting and make a public comment. You can also ask for any issue to be put on the agenda.
In the ensuing conversation a number of questions were posed, both for pastors to ask of our city officials, and for pastors to ask themselves.
There was a spirited conversation about the limited resources of the NAACP and the multitude of congregational issues that pastors deal with, and pleas on both sides for increased attention. It wound up with at least one pastor asking the NAACP to send someone to his church on a Sunday morning to speak with them directly and the organization promising to do so.
There is one immediate and simple action that pastors (and anyone) can take: the current City Manager is retiring and the city is looking for input from the community about what they should be emphasizing in the search, and what they should be looking for. Following are the links to a survey, in both English and Spanish, to filled out online or to print out and send in (available until November 3):
You may also complete the survey over the phone by calling the City’s 311 Customer Service line at (616) 456-3000.
Next meeting is on Thursday, November 16, 11:30am - 1:00pm, place to be determined. If you are not on the mailing list to hear about the meetings, please contact us.