Michigan cop cards cause PR headaches, not relief

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.

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.



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