GRAND RAPIDS, MI: A project designed to improve PR for the Grand Rapids police department has turned into a PR nightmare, stirring protests from community groups and becoming a key issue in the city’s September 14 mayoral primary.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI: A project designed to improve PR for the Grand
Rapids police department has turned into a PR nightmare, stirring
protests from community groups and becoming a key issue in the city’s
September 14 mayoral primary.
At issue are roughly 21,000 two-sided wallet cards the city has
distributed instructing people how to behave if stopped by the police.
The cards, sent to local high schools, colleges and neighborhood
associations, were modeled after similar handouts done by the American
Civil Liberties Union.
They are designed to ease tension between citizens - especially teens -
and the police.
The cards were created after two years of deliberation by a special
committee of the city’s Community Relations Commission and distributed
in mid-August. Immediately, however, the city’s minority community
objected to them. Roughly 25% of Grand Rapids’ 190,000 residents are
minorities, and police stops of minorities in the region have been a
contentious issue for several years.
Some of the language on the cards, such as a phrase saying police can
’briefly detain’ residents, became cause for protest, according to
Ingrid Scott-Weekley, equal opportunity director for Grand Rapids. The
language was viewed as an endorsement of police stops. ’’How dare you
tell us how to behave when stopped by the police’ was the attitude many
critics took,’ she said.
Scott-Weekley is considering a variety of approaches to defuse the
uproar, including approaching local TV stations and asking them to
re-examine how they’ve covered the card issue. She might also seek
advice from a PR firm the city has worked with. ’I do understand some of
the anger,’ she admitted.
The committee that created the cards was highly diverse, including
African-Americans, Native Americans and an ACLU attorney. But it did not
include any teens, an oversight Scott-Weekley said she would correct if
she were to launch a similar project in the future.
Ironically, demand for the cards remains high.