Grand Rapids announces three police chief finalists

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker’s first job offers was from the Grand Rapids Police Department.

But the offer from Battle Creek came first.

That as 25 years ago.

“The idea of coming back to Grand Rapids and all that that city means to me and my family is a special one,” said Blocker, one of three finalists in the search for a new chief for the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Blocker says BCPD’s relationship with the community has helped the department navigate the many challenges faced by law enforcement these days. Success, he says, can be measured in the way his officers engage with the community, but just as important, in the way the community engages with his officers.

“You can’t police on your own,” Blocker said. “You’ve got to have the community with you. And that’s been my philosophy from day one. And it seems to work.”

The city of Grand Rapids announced the finalists in the search to find a new police chief Wednesday. The list includes Blocker, retired Milwaukee Police Inspector Jutiki Jackson and Chicago Police Commander Eric Winstrom. Full bios of each are available online.

One of the finalists will replace current Grand Rapids Police Department 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.

Jackson and Winstrom told News 8 they are thrilled to make the list, but neither were available to talk at length Wednesday. The community will hear from them next week during a public meet-and-greet with the three men.

“We want someone who wants to be part of those community and be here for a while,” Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington said.

While the public will have input, Washington will have the final say in who becomes chief.

“We definitely need someone who can do more than just steer the ship,” Washington said. “They’re going to have to be very proactive and innovate in how they keep our community safe and learn how to do it with community.”

Andy Bengel, who leads the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, told News 8 that while it would have been nice to see some candidates from inside the department make the list, the finalists appear to be a good group of candidates and he’s looking forward to meeting with them next week.

The public forum will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall, located at 300 Monroe Ave. NW. You can also submit questions to that forum online in advance. If you aren’t going to the meeting in person, your question must be submitted online by 5:30 p.m. Jan. 17. You can then watch the forum on Comcast Channel 26 or on the city’s Facebook page or YouTube channel.

After the forum, the city will post a survey to find out what people thought of each candidate. It will be available online and by calling 311 or 616.456.3000.

After the forums and reviewing the public comment, the city manager will choose who to hire. Washington will then announce his selection in the coming weeks.

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