Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon’s recent campaign stunt in downtown Grand Rapids where she announced a $1 billion public safety plan to increase law enforcement resources for the state just steps from the city’s troubled police department was an insult.
For a gubernatorial candidate who is seeking to appeal to more than just her base, standing next to the headquarters of a police force recently mired in the recent fatal shooting of a 26-year-old Black man Patrick Lyoya is really bad optics.
It wasn’t a genuine effort to address public safety.
And it raises questions about the seriousness of her campaign’s ability to navigate and deal with the multifaceted issues of public safety that includes how police respond to the Black community and other marginalized communities that historically have been under siege from law enforcement.
The Grand Rapids Police Department has been in the spotlight since the death of Lyoya, who was allegedly shot and killed by Grand Rapids officer Christopher Schurr, who is White, on April 4, the anniversary of the death of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Schurr has been charged with second-degree murder.
Lyoya’s case became a crucial flashpoint in the debate about criminal justice reform and police interactions with communities of color.
In fact, his death forced an historic scrutiny of Grand Rapids police and their contentious relationship with the Black community. Lyoya was shot in the back of his head while lying on the ground. Video of that gruesome death still lurks behind the minds of many Black people, and remains a fearful reminder of how quickly and deadly a traffic encounter with police can be.
Dixon’s tone-deaf campaign apparently doesn’t seem to care about the issues that have been unraveling in the wake of Lyoya’s passing. She probably thinks it will help deepen her support among voters who have been hypnotized by the politics of Trumpism, and the tired “law and order,” refrain, the kind of bogeyman politics, that has been exploited for years to create a chasm between the inner cities and the suburbs.
But the Republican flagbearer should know that her presentation in Grand Rapids close to a police department that has been exposed to have some fundamental problems in practicing constitutional policing in the Black community is not a winning strategy.
I visited Grand Rapids for Lyoya’s funeral and returned days after to host a live two-hour town hall on my radio program there. I was left aghast hearing all of the horrible stories from some Black residents, who showed up for the forum and explained their apprehension of the police that they basically view as an occupying force in their own community.
The fact that those Black residents in Grand Rapids live in fear due to the actions of the police is a public safety issue; Black distrust of law enforcement is legitimate.
To focus only on how many more officers are being hired is avoiding the elephant in the room.
Public safety is also about making sure that those who are supposed to be protected by the police are recipients of equitable policing. Any credible gubernatorial candidate should have a thoughtful and serious response to this community’s concerns.
Does Tudor Dixon’s campaign care?
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