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Community updates: Tuesday, Aug. 25

Grand Rapids’ police oversight department gives update on draft strategic plan, improved policing report; Grand Rapids Public Schools completes first day back to school, online-only; and Circle Theatre launches outdoor Circle Popup Concerts series.
Circle Theatre's popup concert on Monday, featuring soul rock duo Feathers & Roses.

Circle Theatre's popup concert on Monday, featuring soul rock duo Feathers & Roses. /Circle Theatre

Grand Rapids’ police oversight department gives update on draft strategic plan, improved policing report

Grand Rapids' year-old Office of Oversight and Public Accountability (OPA) gave an update to city commissioners on Tuesday, which included more details about its draft strategic plan and overall efforts to help improve police-community relations.

OPA Director Brandon Davis said the department's working to finalize the strategic plan and create procedures to operationalize its strategic priorities and action steps. Internal and external education on the OPA’s role and focus will begin in November.

The department released its draft strategic plan on August 11, which laid out objectives, action steps, and measurable outcomes through 2023 for improved policing. It's aligned with the city's strategic plan and the Grand Rapids Police Department's (GRPD) draft stategic plan, all spanning the next three years and aiming for public safety accountability that intentionally pursues justice.

"This plan is the product of the collective wisdom of community, city staff, and the information contained in the city’s past studies and recommendations," said Davis. "It is a living, breathing document that is intended to guide OPA’s strategic direction, while being flexible enough to adapt to the needs of our community."

Among the 68 action steps within the strategic plan are: working in partnership with the GRPD and Fire Department to improve diversity in recruitment and retention of public safety staff, creating a public safety community-mediation program that focuses on non-disciplinary resolution of complaints, and evaluating and recommending changes to policies, ordinances, and laws that disproportionately impact communities of color.

Community members were able to provide feedback for the draft plan, and can continue to do so through the OPA's website.

Davis also outlined the OPA’s draft independent comprehensive status report on GRPD studies and recommendations. This included a traffic stop study, task force on police policies and procedures report, Safe Alliances for Everyone report, and more.

The director noted that, of the 106 total recommendations outlined in the studies and reports, 26 percent have already been implemented in city and public safety operations.

The City Commission meeting Davis shared OPA updates through can be watched on YouTube in English and Spanish.


Grand Rapids Public Schools completes first day back to school, online-only

School's back in session this week for students and teachers of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), with the first day of the district's online-only approach due to COVID-19 now in the bag.

Tuesday, the first day of the 2020-21 school year, began nine weeks of the online format, also known as distance learning. GRPS aims to assess the public health situation in Grand Rapids over the coming weeks and prepare for a potential in-person or hybrid return to school on October 21.

"As we close out the first day of school, we want to thank our students and parents for your patience, understanding, flexibility, and support during this unprecedented time," GRPS shared on its Facebook page. "This is new for everyone and there are certainly some challenges, frustrations, and opportunities for improvement."

Technical problems with learning devices, not unexpected by GRPS, were experienced by some students and parents. GRPS' Help Desk reported students having issues joining class meetings through Zoom because their Chomebooks didn't recognize the video software was pre-installed. The Help Desk offered troubleshooting tips by phone and email.

GRPS shared a photo of Superintendent Leadriane Roby celebrating the first day of distance learning on its Facebook as well. It encouraged families to share their own "first day of school" photos.

Weekly updates on the district's still-developing school year plans are available on its website.


Circle Theatre launches outdoor Circle Popup Concerts series

Circle Theatre began the first of several outdoor concerts on its front lawn on Monday, as part of its new Circle Popup Concerts series.

The outdoor concerts feature local musicians and family-friendly entertainment to help keep local residents connected and its company active during a continued shutdown for theaters in Michigan.

The 68-year-old community theater company, now located on Aquinas College's campus, kicked off the series Monday with soul rock duo Feathers & Roses. The duo, like all musicians featured in popup series, have performed in previous Circle Theatre productions.

"Circle Popup Concerts bring the community together to enjoy local musicians and beautiful Michigan summer nights," Circle Theatre said in a statement. "Bring a beach chair, your favorite snacks, and your friends."

Concerts run on select Monday and Tuesday nights from 7-8pm. Future performers include Vanessa Allen and Debra Perry, Ellie Frances, and Colin Tobin and Jeff Kemperman.

Physical distancing between groups and face covering use when not seated are required.

More details about Circle Theatre's outdoor concert series are available on its website.


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