GVPD continues to work against discrimination following multiple charges against GRPD


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Chloe Schram, Staff Writer

After the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) faced two charges of discrimination from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Grand Valley State University’s Police Department is reasserting its commitment to preventing discriminatory practices among its officers.

The charges against the GRPD came as a result of actions the Department took against Black citizens in two separate instances recent years.

In 2017, Grand Rapids Police pointed a gun at 11-year-old Honestie Hodges while searching for a suspect in a case unrelated to her. The officer yelled for her to put her hands up, handcuffed her and put her in the police car. Her mother reached out to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to report what had happened.

Then in 2020, a Black woman named Melissa Mason was questioned by police, handcuffed and put in a police cruiser in front of her three children because she had an expired license plate.

A series of incidents affecting the Black community in subsequent years has since led to national attention and public outcry against GRPD.

On April 4, Lyoya was fatally shot by a Grand Rapids police officer during a routine traffic stop. After Lyoya’s car was pulled over by Officer Christopher Schurr for improper vehicle registration, Lyoya began running from the Schurr as the officer questioned him. Schurr then chased Lyoya with a taser, pinned him to the ground and shot him in the back of the head.

While Schurr has claimed self-defense, it was determined that Lyoya had no weapons on his person at the time of the incident.

In the wake of the incidents involving the GRPD, GVPD has sought to make students aware of the actions they are taking to prevent discrimination amongst their force on campus.

“Our number one priority is not necessarily enforcement, it is to be connected to the community and provide safety for the community,” said GVPD Captain Jeff Stoll.

The incidents outlined in the charges against the GRPD both occurred within the last five years.

These incidents occurred prior to another this year in which the GRPD garnered national attention for an officer’s killing of Patrick Lyoya.

To bolster its own anti-discrimination practices, Stoll said GVPD meets with many different groups on campus to create better interpersonal relationships with not only the Black student population but other marginalized groups as well.

“We partner with Black Student Scholars, Office of Multicultural Affairs and other groups when we’re able to,” Stoll said. “It’s mostly responding to what our community wants.”

GVPD makes an effort to listen to marginalized communities and interact with each student and organization based on their needs and requests, Stoll said

“Sometimes there’s a desire to interact with us and sometimes there’s not, and we are respectful of that too,” Stoll said.

Stoll also elaborated on the actions taken by the university amidst a heightened national sense of awareness surrounding police brutality toward communities of color.

“In the wake of the George Floyd murder, President Mantella has set up something called a network of advisors who work to review our relationship with the community,” Stoll said. “Chief DeHaan has met with several groups on campus to create a better understanding of what we do.”

Through this network, Chief Dehaan has been able to connect with many groups previously mentioned.

Stoll said GVPD is continuing to make such efforts to build connections with the Black community and other marginalized groups on campus in order to create a safe and welcoming environment for all.