GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids city commissioners on Tuesday discussed next year’s budget proposal, which includes adding community police officers — just not the number the Grand Rapids Police Department wanted.
City Manager Mark Washington’s spending plan calls for adding a community policing night shift, with five additional officers. GRPD leaders have said 10 would be the preferred number.
“It’s certainly a start,” GRPD Interim Chief David Kiddle said.
Under Washington’s plan, only two of the additional officers would be new hires. The city would create three civilian positions within the police department to free up three officers for the remaining community policing posts.
“It assures the community of concerns in terms of making sure there’s good community police relations and also assures the officers that are concerned about appropriate staffing levels,” Washington said.
The move comes after a recent study on police staffing suggested GRPD officers are doing jobs that could be handled by civilians, like reviewing paperwork. The report recommended the city not hire any new police officers and instead hire more civilians.
“The study indicated that there were not more sworn resources that were needed, but I have to make hard decisions and that was the tough decision that I made,” Washington told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.
“Even though the consultants did not recommend adding additional sworn officers, we have to crawl before we can walk,” Washington told city commissioners. “So we’re not able to implement all the recommendations at one time.”
Washington is also proposing a new position in his office. That person would concentrate on improving relations between the community and GRPD.
Washington told city commissioners he’s concerned that if those relations don’t improve, outside agencies like the federal government might intervene, as it has in other cities.
“I hope those agencies see this as a responsible move and would entrust us to work with our local community and try to improve the relationships that we have with them,” Washington said.
Chief Kiddle says he wants to know more about how the liaison would work.
“It appears from the city manager’s standpoint, he’d like some additional oversight of the police department to deal with some of the community relations and community complaints,” Kiddle said.
The proposed $563 million spending plan is about $30 million less than last year’s budget.
Tuesday’s briefing was only the start of the budget process. A public hearing on the spending plan is scheduled for May 14.