On April 4, Grand Rapids resident Patrick Lyoya, 26, was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids police officer. The fallout from Lyoya’s tragic death has been significant and has left many in the community searching for answers.
Among those community members are government officials and officials, such as Grand Rapids Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear. According to Lenear, the outcry following the Lyoya shooting was immense, both locally and nationally. Many have called on the government to focus more on police reform, and Lenear said she believes officials need to do just that.
“We must be part of the solution. You know, to dismantle the system is to build it in a different way. And if we don’t want to diversify our police force or if we can’t recruit people, or if people don’t want to, should I say, be in the police force, then how can we change? said Lenear.
Although calls for government action and police reform have exploded since the murder of Patrick Lyoya, they are certainly not new. Advocates have been speaking with government officials and community leaders about these issues for years, and now their voices are louder than ever.
Lenear was one of the leaders present at a community conversation event held at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, where residents and advocates spoke and asked questions about body cameras, profiling and reducing gaps in community policing. Lenear said those in attendance provided valuable feedback and said she had ideas for potential changes.
“I think if we were to recruit a police force that reflects the community they serve in, I think we might see a shift in some of the results,” Lenear said.
“We have tried very hard to change the culture of our community with the community and the police and we will not stop,” Lenear said. “So while it happened, it’s probably a big wrinkle in this discussion now, but we certainly won’t stop.”
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