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GRPD rifle purchase splits Commissioners, residents

On December 15, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved the purchase of 65 rifles for the GRPD.
Though the Commission meeting was packed at the beginning of the evening, by hour three, crowds had thinned.

Though the Commission meeting was packed at the beginning of the evening, by hour three, crowds had thinned. /by Nick Nortier

The Grand Rapids City Commission voted in favor of a plan to allow the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) to acquire new rifles on December 15, in a split vote of 5-2. The decision received a mixed response, with attendees split over the role of guns in maintaining safety in Grand Rapids.
The City Commission authorized the city to spend $69,000 on 65 Colt .223 caliber rifles for 59 Grand Rapids police vehicles and an additional $230,000 on ammunition for usage during police training exercises. GRPD officers will fire 1,000 rounds during 32 hours of rifle training before receiving a rifle in Fall 2016.
Police Chief David Rahinsky said that a weaponry upgrade is long overdue. Rifles offer greater accuracy than the available handguns and shotguns.
Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear said the rifle distribution could hurt police-community relations. She requested a public forum on the rifle purchase seven months earlier, but the event never occurred.
"Pause and engage the community," Lenear said. "People are concerned that the rifles will be used in communities in color to over police and to harass them."
GRPD will host four public meetings addressing public concerns with the rifle purchase in January, 2016.
Lenear said that GRPD should implement each of the recommendations in its 12-point reform plan before purchasing rifles. GRPD has purchased body cameras, but missed a deadline to introduce racial and profiling training.
During the public comment section, community members called for the City Commission to postpone the rifle decision until GRPD completed the 12-point plan.
"The purchase of rifles will not improve transparency," said LINC Co-Director Jeremy DeRoo.
The City Commission meeting followed the recent shooting of 14 people in San Bernadino, California. The shooting sparked a nation-wide discussion on preventing further mass shootings.
"There is no evidence that increased armament combats mass shootings," said Equity Drinks founder Jeremy Moore. "But I understand why police want accurate weapons; they want to go home to their families."
"Countries like Australia have shown clear models of how specific, common-sense gun control measures greatly reduce mass shootings. What if police advocated for these same measures?"
The gun debate takes place during a 50-year low point for violent crime in Grand Rapids. Six murders occurred within city limits last year, none of which occurred due to gun usage.

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