City manager negotiating with next GRPD chief

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While Grand Rapids deals with a high number of homicides and a spike in shootings, the city manager said he’s close to announcing next police chief.

“I anticipated having that appointment made last week and didn’t do so and so this week, hopefully, an announcement will be made,” City Manager Mark Washington said Tuesday.

After looking over 31 candidates and having one of his finalists pull out of consideration, the city manager is down to two options: Grand Rapids Police Department Deputy Police Chief Eric Payne and retired Pittsburgh Assistant Police Chief Larry Scirotto.

Washington said he’s negotiating with the candidate he has chosen, but didn’t name that person. He said he has only one chance at negotiations and wants to make sure it is done right.

Meanwhile, Interim Chief David Kiddle is working to put perspective on the violence and assuage the concerns of the community and elected officials.

“We are continuing to see a slight increase in our shootings. We’re about 50 percent up overall in our shootings without injury. With that said, we are about even with our injuries related to shooting,” Kiddle told commissioners at their Tuesday morning meeting.

Saul Espinoza, 20, is the city’s most recent homicide victim. His shooting death on Saturday night was Grand Rapids’ ninth homicide of 2019 — the same number the city recorded all of last year.

“We are actively investigating these pretty much 24/7 as information comes in,” Kiddle said.

One strategy to combat the violence is to provide engagement for young people to keep them out of trouble. The city parks department is hiring youths to be park ambassadors who will help run programs and clean up trash.

Lifequest’s Hope Initiative 2019, run by Rev. Jerry Bishop, recently got $20,000 to get men ages 15 to 24 into jobs. The city provided $10,000 and Huntington Bank donated a $10,000 match.

“I received a phone call from Huntington Bank and they recognized that there was an increase in violent acts and they asked, ‘What can we do?'” 3rd Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear explained.

“The hope is that we would come up with preventative strategies to reduce crime in our community, but also do it in a positive way of engaging young people,” Washington said.

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