GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Chicago Police Commander Eric Winstrom has been named Grand Rapids’ next police chief.
In a news release Tuesday, the city said City Manager Mark Washington selected Winstrom to replace Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne. Winstrom is expected to start his new role March 7.
“I am honored that you have entrusted me with this incredible opportunity in this incredible city in such an historic time in policing,” Winstrom said during prepared remarks at a Tuesday afternoon press conference with Washington.
He promised to champion constitutional policing and work to make the city safe for everyone. He said he’s excited to partner with the community to make that happen and that his first 30 days would be devoted to familiarizing himself with the area and leaders.
“I want to meet people, I want to hear from them, I want to listen,” Winstrom said.
He pledged to hit the ground running.
“I plan to be the most exhausted person in the city of Grand Rapids in the first 30 days,” he said.
Washington described Winstrom as a progressive, culturally competent and principled officer. He cited his experience as a community officer with and an attorney for the Chicago Police Department.
“Our incoming chief Winstrom has a high ceiling for ethical behavior and moral leadership,” Washington said. “He is the type of leader that we need in our city and our police department to continue to lead us forward.”
Taking questions from reporters, Winstrom noted that having a brother who was previously imprisoned has always led him to question when incarceration is the right course of action. He said he’s interested in supporting programs that help people avoid jail or prison, like Grand Rapids’ narcotics diversion program.
During a public forum in January, Winstrom said he is a reformer who wants to make policing better for everyone by implementing effective change based on data. He also said he would work to improve recruiting and GRPD morale.
Also at that forum, he had supported use of a technology called ShotSpotter, which is meant to detect the sound of gunshots so police can respond more quickly but which has faced criticism. Asked about that Tuesday, he said that it had come to his attention that ShotSpotter was likely “off the table” in Grand Rapids because of community opposition. He said he supports a local policy that requires community input before adding new surveillance technologies.
The president of Grand Rapids’ police union says they’re looking forward to welcoming the department’s next leader.
“He’s worried about the morale, he recognizes there’s both an internal and an external audience that he has to work with,” said Geoff Collard, a GRPD captain and the president of the Grand Rapids Police Command Officer Association. “As long as he does that I think he can have a successful career here.”
Winstrom’s appointment comes one week after the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP called on the city to scrap the candidates they had and restart the process, saying more community input would’ve led to more diversity among the finalists.
The group on Tuesday said it’s still disappointed with the overall process but looks forward to working with the next chief.
“We would’ve preferred to have somebody who has a more diverse lived experience to be the new incoming police chief of the city of Grand Rapids, however we also understand the importance of not only diversity and lived experience, but also diversity of thought,” said Carlton Mayers, the NAACP special advisor on public safety.
Winstrom will replace GRPD Chief Eric Payne, who announced last year that he would retire after about 35 years as a police officer. Payne became chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department in July 2019. He is the first African American to hold the office.
Washington said he was pleased with the pool of candidates in the search. Besides Winstrom, the two other finalists were Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker and retired Milwaukee Police Inspector Jutiki Jackson.
“Chief Winstrom is a consummate professional who will undoubtedly lean into the work and move the needle for Grand Rapids. I continue to be proud of our profession and all the men and women who serve in it daily. Warmly welcome Eric and his family into the greater West Michigan chiefs community.”Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker