U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Hosts Justice Forum In Grand Rapids To Kickoff National Community Policing Week
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — President Barack Obama designated the week of October 2-8, 2016 as National Community Policing Week and the U.S. Department of Justice is leading events nationwide to support community policing. Locally, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles for the Western District of Michigan convened area stakeholders today to discuss police and community relations in Grand Rapids. "The forum provided an opportunity for local community leaders, law enforcement, youth advocates, and state and local officials to establish and maintain trusting relationships, critically examine police-community issues in our city and seek solutions together," said U.S. Attorney Miles. A variety of representatives from local and federal law enforcement, the city of Grand Rapids, community and student groups, service organizations, and religious congregations met together at LINC Up in Grand Rapids with the shared aim of strengthening relationships between law enforcement officers and the community members they serve.
At the outset of the forum, U.S. Attorney Miles, Grand Rapids Chief of Police David M. Rahinsky, and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss shared their respective observations on local challenges in the area of police-community relations, as well as insights and strategies for making Grand Rapids stronger, safer, and more unified. During the second part of the forum, several stakeholders and area residents spoke briefly about their perception of police-community relations, obstacles to positive police interactions, and ideas for effecting change.
During the third part of the Justice Forum, the entire group (over 25 people) had a conversation about a wide range of topics including officer training and education, community engagement, implicit bias, officer safety, promoting diversity within police departments, crisis response, transparency and officer accountability, and fostering positive police-community encounters. "The working group aspect of the forum was especially valuable," said U.S. Attorney Miles. "Participants spoke candidly with one another about a wide range of topics relating to interactions between the police and the community, and how the community and law enforcement can work together to improve the safety and wellness of all community members."
Copied below is a list of invited organizations and speakers that presented at the Justice Forum in Grand Rapids.
U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr.
City of Grand Rapids Chief of Police David M. Rahinsky
City of Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
Darel Ross II, LINC UP
Dr. Aly Mageed, M.D.
Roberto Torres, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan
Eugene Brown, Todd Harris, Jr., Je’ana Mason, and Danielle McMillon, Students, Am I Next
Cle Jackson, Greater Grand Rapids NAACP
Four Students from Grand Rapids Area Schools
Larry Johnson, Grand Rapids Public Schools
The forum today is just one of several efforts U.S. Attorney Miles has launched or participates in that are designed to strengthen police-community relations and engagement:
• U.S. Attorney Miles co-founded ALPACT (Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust) groups in Grand Rapids and Benton Harbor. ALPACT groups bring together police and community stakeholders on a regular basis to discuss police and community relations, promote community trust, and reduce tension. The meetings provide a forum to discuss police-related shootings and other issues that test police and community relationships. The ongoing communications result in relationships between ALPACT members and law enforcement that foster a trusting environment where tensions can be voiced and diffused.
• For youth, U.S. Attorney Miles created the Justice Scholars program last year, in which middle-school students are exposed to careers in law enforcement and learn about the Constitution and the criminal justice system. The academic year concludes with a mock trial performed by the students.
• U.S. Attorney Miles also meets semi-annually with leaders in the Middle Eastern and Muslim American communities in the Grand Rapids area. The meetings provide a forum to address issues of mutual concern and to foster better understanding on topics ranging from cultural sensitivity to hate crimes; from police and community relations to law enforcement policies and procedures.
• U.S. Attorney Miles also serves as co-chair of the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes (MIAAHC) in Lansing, along with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Barb McQuade. MIAAHC consists of representatives from federal, state, and local law enforcement, civil rights organizations, community groups, educators and anti-violence advocates who work together to establish a coordinated statewide effort against hate crimes.