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Mayor, police chief respond to pastor criticizing policies

Audra Gamble, The Holland Sentinel • May 14, 2018 at 4:00 PM

HOLLAND — One week after Maple Avenue Ministries Pastor Denise Kingdom Grier posted video of an arrest that took place at her church, Holland city officials are responding to the incident.

Grier posted a Facebook live video of a high-risk felony traffic stop Holland police initiated in the parking lot of Grier’s church. According to Grier, the Holland Police Department used excessive and traumatic force during the arrest.

Police, however, disagree. The arrest Grier recorded took place at 6:15 p.m. Friday, May 4, nearly seven hours after the suspect — who was subsequently arrested — in the traffic stop had allegedly committed domestic violence against a female victim while she was holding a child. The suspect was believed to be armed and police found a gun in the vehicle stopped at Grier’s church.

 

At a community conversation Grier hosted on Monday, May 7, she said an officer pointed a rifle “a foot from the head” of the four young adults that were in the vehicle police stopped last Friday as they were handcuffed.

“This excessive, traumatizing force on citizens in our country is killing us,” Grier said. “It is killing black and brown people at exponential rates which cannot be denied. It is also killing the possibility of relationships between community and police.”

In a statement responding to the outrage, Capt. Keith Mulder said the Holland Police Department acted according to policy. 

“If you compare universally accepted police training across the country on how to deal with high-risk traffic stops involving weapons, to how this incident was handled by our officers, they are consistent,” Mulder wrote. “We have done high-risk stops like this plenty of times, on similar situations involving reports of crimes with weapons, regardless of the race or gender of the victims involved, suspects involved or witnesses involved.”

At the Monday community conversation, several audience members asked why Mayor Nancy DeBoer or anyone from the Holland Police Department was not in attendance.

“While I wasn’t available Monday night, I was thankful several members of (city) council and our director of human relations were able to be there to listen,” DeBoer told The Sentinel via email late Friday, May 11. “Overall, I’m very thankful no one was injured last Friday and that we were able to arrest the individual involved in the domestic violence incident earlier in the day.

DeBoer said she and Holland Department of Public Safety Chief Matt Messer have had a conversation about the incident and that further actions are being taken by city staff.

“Presently, staff members are reaching out to people for individual conversations,” DeBoer said. “We are also planning on a meeting to discuss the incident and high-risk traffic stop procedures. The date and other specifics are yet to be determined.”

Messer said he stands by the statement Mulder made earlier in the week, but encouraged those concerned about policing to get involved.

 

“I would just say that our No. 1 priority is and always will be the safety and well-being of our citizens and visitors to our community, especially those that are victims of crime,” Messer said. “We use standardized procedures in these types of situations to protect our officers and all others in the area.

“In addition, we would invite everyone to sign-up for our annual Citizen’s Police Academy to gather an understanding of how law enforcement agencies operate. This is a great opportunity to meet many of our officers and to see first-hand what we do, how we do it, and most importantly, why we do certain things and train the way that we do.”

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