At NIOT.org/COPS, we profile innovative law enforcement programs. This month, we featured the Grand Rapids, MI chapter of Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust.
Events in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere have inevitably brought to head long overdue discussions about race and community policing.
On the day that the St. Louis Grand Jury decided not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the Ferguson, MO shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, a group focused on police-community relations in Grand Rapids, MI had come together to watch and discuss the Not In Our Town documentary, Waking in Oak Creek.
The group, Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT), exists to grapple with these very issues. ALPACT started nearly 20 years ago in Detroit, when citizens complained that the city’s law enforcement officials were profiling and harassing them.
“As a result of that, the decision was made—involving U.S. attorneys, law enforcement folks, government leaders, faith-based leaders, community leaders—to sit down at the table and talk,” Michigan Department of Civil Rights Executive Director Matt Wesaw recently told Michigan Radio.
With five ALPACT chapters in Michigan, police and community continue to come together to talk. After the Waking in Oak Creek discussion, the Grand Rapids group planned to come together again in March, this time addressing the issue head-on. Together, they imagined a pseudo-racial incident that takes place in their community. The fake scenario is similar to what occurred in Ferguson.
The purpose of this exercise was to get the group talking, grappling with questions such as: What are the things that we, as a group, would need to do immediately when such an incident happens? Who do we involve right away? Who needs to be at the table with law enforcement?