GV safety review helps GVPD work towards understanding


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Adam Trombley, Staff Reporter

As the United States faces unprecedented times, COVID-19 has taken a back seat to human rights activism in the form of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In June, Grand Valley State University President Philomena Mantella had brought together a network of advisors in order to help with racial equality and to fight against racism on GVSU’s campus. This network is helping members of the Black community, as well as other members of marginalized communities, to share their thoughts on what they think of the school and how their community is treated by students, staff members and GVSU’s police department.

One of the main focuses of the group of advisors is centered around public safety, and GVPD is helping with this review to explain who they are and what they do, while also listening to those in the community around them to see what they need to do better.

Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Brandon DeHaan has met with different members of marginalized communities — whether that be based on their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation — in order to create a presentation on what GVPD does. He wants to have a conversation in order to say what things his department has been doing to help make their department more diverse while making campus safe for everyone.

“This is a presentation about public safety and it really becomes a review of what is and who is public safety,” DeHaan said. “I want to be able to listen. We need to listen to the community. Where does the community need to be? What do we need to do to move this forward?”

DeHaan said that this review stems from the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake. He also noted that having this review and conversations with the community is crucial right now, especially with the national conversation surrounding racial justice.

While one goal of the presentations is to describe who GVPD is and what do they do, the real goal is to read surveys and listen to the community’s perspective to dictate if reform is needed.

“Relationships are key,” DeHaan said. “They are the key to building understanding with folks, it is key to asking questions. I’m excited to see what develops. Others have a voice and that voice needs to be heard.”

DeHaan focuses on what qualifications GVPD officers must go through in the hiring process and the expectations they have for them once they are hired. Prospective candidates must go through a 16-week program in which they are evaluated every day. Once they get hired, they must complete 60 hours of training per year and many of the officers are connected to the community around them with many of them being GVSU alumni.

“We are looking for the best of the best who really identify with our vision, mission and values,” DeHaan said. “We look at every officer here as a community officer. So, our community policing section, every officer shares that and we look at it through the lens of guardians not warriors.”

GVPD has never used chokeholds and has always focused on de-escalation tactics when it comes to dealing with cases and conflict. Comprehensive reports have always been used when reporting what is happening between GVPD and the members of the community. GVPD is trained by the counseling center and they have a 24-hour consultation service set up through the center.

Many of GVPD calls involve larceny and substance abuse, but GVPD has also been integral in events involving mental health and they are all trained as medical first responders.

“We have become the default mental health worker on the university on nights and weekends,” DeHaan said.

GVPD wants to connect to the community and to hear what changes they need to make in order to help everyone feel safe and welcome on campus and they will continue to make strides to improve their relationships with GVSU’s community while following along with the goals set forth by President Mantella.