A local advocacy group is planning a protest in downtown Grand Rapids on Friday because of the hiring of a controversial candidate as the police department's new Chief of Staff.

Last week it was announced that Karianne Thomas would fill the new role and start later this month, but some in the community are not happy with the hire. The group Justice For Black Lives is holding a rally to protest Thomas' hiring.

Thomas most recently served as the Kalamazoo Police Chief before being fired from that position. Thomas was heavily criticized for her department's handling of a Proud Boys rally in Kalamazoo in August of 2020. The rally turned violent and police were late to intervene. When police did make arrests counter-protestors were targeted and even a reporter was unlawfully arrested.

The Justice For Black Lives group says that this hiring is inappropriate considering her actions in Kalamazoo.

With this role she would be in charge of, administering the budget and supporting the department's community engagement and improvement efforts. This is very concerning as not only has she been fired from her last position and has a history of harming protesters, but the GRPD has zero accountability for their officers, especially when they are harassing peaceful protesters.

The group's event "No More Corrupt Cops In Our City" is set for 6pm on Friday.

Despite the criticism, GRPD Chief Eric Payne says that Karianne is the best person for the job after an extensive interview process:

Karianne Thomas brings a high level of professional achievement and an experienced perspective that will benefit the department and the community. Her hiring represents another milestone in the efforts to transform policing in Grand Rapids.

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