Government, Human Resources, and Law

Grand Rapids approves 'equal services' policy

November 17, 2017
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David Rahinsky
David Rahinsky, chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department, announces the city's "equal services" policy. Courtesy City of Grand Rapids

Acting with the goal to protect individuals regardless of their immigration status and national origin, the Grand Rapids City Commission has approved an “equal services” policy.

The city commission unanimously approved the “Equal Services Regardless of Immigration Status and/or National Origin” policy at its Nov. 14 Committee of the Whole meeting.

The move comes after the city’s Community Relations Commission, or CRC, adopted the policy last week.

“We appreciate the Community Relations Commission’s work on this policy,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “This policy is aligned with our commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive city.”

The CRC drafted the policy at the request of the mayor and the city manager with help from citizens, law enforcement, legal consultants and the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU.

The policy prohibits public servants from coercing or making improper or unlawful threats of deportation. It also prohibits city representatives from engaging in verbal abuse of any person based on the individual’s or individual’s family members’ actual or perceived immigration status or national origin. The includes the mayor, city commissioners, city clerk, any member of a city agency, board or commission and all appointees, employees and personal services contractors.

“The immigrant community is a very vulnerable population that has not felt safe coming forward,” said Tommy Allen, chair, CRC. “That’s why we worked with lawyers representing the immigrant community to have these important voices heard.”

“Now that the city has this policy in writing, it does re-assure residents that city employees, including police officers, are here to serve and protect.”

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky said he hopes the policy helps strengthen the bond between the community and police department.

“What I hope residents of this community take from (this) action is that if they need law enforcement assistance from the Grand Rapids Police Department, regardless of their status … they are not reluctant to reach out to us,” Rahinsky said.

“If someone is a victim of a crime, they need to have confidence and feel comfortable calling 911, so that Grand Rapids police officers can respond and assist.”

This policy only applies to the City of Grand Rapids. Although all serve and operate within the city, Kent County, the State of Michigan and federal agencies are not subject to this policy.

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