GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The jury is still out on whether the Grand Rapids Police Department should get more money to enhance its community policing program.
“There will be, in my budget recommendation, a staffing increase for the police department,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “It’s the type of staffing that we’ll need to be very deliberate about.”
The new staff members may not wear a badge. The study pointed out a number of areas where the addition of civilian staff could help make GRPD more efficient. Consultants used the detective bureau as an example.
“Formalizing reports for court, low-level reports; citations. They’re walking things over (to the courthouse). So how your detectives are utilized in that regard are not as efficient,” Hillard Heintze consultant Debra Kirby explained to commissioners.
The answer, according to the consultants, is the addition of civilians who can handle paperwork and other tasks that don’t involve responding to a crime. The report also suggested cutting response to things like parking violations and traffic crashes without injuries in an effort to free up officers’ time so they can do more.
Does the report change Interim Police Chief David Kiddle’s mind about the need for additional officers?
“Again, it’s very early. We need to take an in-depth look and analyze the report in-depth,” Kiddle told 24 Hour News 8.
City commissioners ordered the study to settle the debate over whether the GRPD needs additional community policing officers, an approach both police and residents say could go a long way in improving police-community relations, or whether it could enhance the community policing program with current staffing.
A least one commissioner says he still sees a need for more officers.
“To have the people in our community, our neighborhood organizations, our neighbors and our residents have asked us for this, I think it’s still going to take more bodies to do that,” 1st Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor said.
While the study seems to disagree with that assessment, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss says it’s not the last word in the debate.
“Today isn’t about making those decisions. Today is about taking the information, looking at what the needs are and are there ways to add additional support in the department to meet our community needs,” Bliss said.
Despite the report, Kiddle will again ask for 10 additional community policing officers to work the night shift in the upcoming budget.
“I do feel that there’s a need and a desire for community policing specialists to work in the evening hours and that’s what we will be pursuing,” Kiddle said of the request that has been turned down by the commission four years in a row.