Former KDPS chief hired to manage GRPD budget

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The former public safety director for Kalamazoo, Karianne Thomas, has been named the new chief of staff for the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Thomas will get to work in Grand Rapids June 28.

As chief of staff — a newly created civilian role under GRPD’s three-year strategic plan — Thomas’ main job will be handling the department’s budget, the city said in a Thursday release.

She’ll also back the department’s community engagement efforts and help with management projects.

“I look forward to joining the amazing team at GRPD and helping them continue the implementation of the strategic plan,” Thomas said in a Thursday statement.

“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,” GRPD Chief Eric Payne said in a statement. “Karianne will be an asset in helping us continue to improve the GRPD,” Payne said. “Her demonstrated commitment to building relationships, fiscal management, and transparency makes her the ideal person to help us continue our mission to be a more effective, inclusive, and trusted police department.”

Thomas was ousted from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety in September as it faced criticism for how it handled racial inequity protests in late May 2020, downtown vandalism in early June 2020 and a Proud Boys rally in August 2020.

The city release announcing she was being replaced by now-Chief Vernon Coakley didn’t indicate she was terminated without cause; that became public in December, after which the city manager apologized to the city commission for not making it clear what happened. City Manager Jim Ritsema said he decided Thomas’ ability to lead had been compromised and it was best for her to move on. He stressed her firing was not a punishment.

Thomas worked for KDPS for 27 years.

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