East Grand Rapids residents and community members,
As we continue to discuss the wrongful death of George Floyd and work to make change, I wish to address the importance of positive involvement and engagement in our community, as true change begins in our homes, businesses and schools.
This crisis has continued to weigh on my heart, not only as an individual, but as a mother, a community member, a person with privilege and, of course, your Mayor. The unrest and its repercussions haven’t left my mind, dinner table or newsfeed — nor should it.
When I last addressed this issue, I urged you to continue educating yourself on this topic and keep the discussion going at home. As a community, we have access to the resources we need to hold civil discourse, so we must continue these conversations as we work toward real and systemic change. Keep this up!
I also urged you to get to know our public safety officers. It is part of our civil duty to become involved with and understand how all aspects of our government function, especially on a local level, including our Public Safety Department. This knowledge is crucial for having constructive, successful discussions and interactions.
I have been meeting with officers from all three shifts, getting to know them better and listening to their response to this national issue. They are also angry about George Floyd’s death and so many others before him, for the complete mistreatment of these individuals and the betrayal of their oath to our country by some of their brothers and sisters on the force. They, too, want justice for these terrible actions.
I support our department and the incredible work our officers put day in and day out. As a team, they continuously and proactively evaluate how they can better themselves and their protocols to provide top-notch services. They also have incredible knowledge of and experience in responding to a range of situations, whether that be helping us when our house catches fire, when our kids are missing, when our spouse has a heart attack or when reporting sexual assault. They can answer to all of the above because ours is one of approximately 100 departments in the nation cross-trained as law enforcement officers, firefighters and medical first responders.
They most recently demonstrated their excellence by completing the difficult and prestigious accreditation process, a three-year program that requires the department to re-evaluate all of its policies, including bias training. EGR Public Safety is one of 25 MLEAC accredited departments in the state.
Of course, what makes our department most distinct, however, is that our officers go above and beyond numbers and accolades. Two months ago, Chief Herald walked with peaceful protestors that marched into EGR from Grand Rapids. That same week, our officers worked with a group of teenagers who organized a protest in our community to ensure safe and successful events.
A resident recently shared a story with me about when she was a new mother and had an emergency situation with her days old infant daughter. When notified, Kent County Dispatch sent Staff Sgt. Jeff Metternich to the scene, who was able to quickly identify and resolve the situation. This spring, nearly seven years later to the day, Staff Sgt. Metternich showed up at the young girl’s door in a kilt playing “Happy Birthday” to her on his bagpipes.
These stories and interactions capture the true nature of our community. These are the stories and interactions I would like all of us to remember as we move forward, continue to discuss and work to make EGR a great place to live.
I encourage you to engage with our department and Chief Herald, who has always been very welcoming to discussions with all residents, in positive ways to continue this ongoing conversation. At our last community engagement session, he described our situation very well: "This is not an easy topic and we’re not going to solve these issues overnight, but discussions like these are important steps forward to finding solutions and understanding one another. It’s crucial we get to know each other and build trust."
Supporting our department does not minimize the national issue, though. In fact, this is the goal — to have a department actively enhancing itself so all those it serves can depend on it.
I would like to thank all those who participated in our most recent community engagement session as well as past events, such as attending the department’s annual open house, inviting officers to neighborhood block parties and participating in ride-alongs. There will be more engagement sessions – done so in a safe manner – in the upcoming months that I would strongly encourage everyone to attend.
I firmly believe that making a difference starts at home and in our local communities. Voting, participating in commission meetings, fighting for what you are passionate about needs to start here.
This issue is not a political matter. Like wearing a mask, this is a matter of protecting humanity. I know that if we all interact with civility and compassion, we can move forward to make real change.
Mayor Katie Favale