GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids residents had the opportunity Wednesday to meet and ask questions of the three finalists vying to lead the city’s police department.
Last week, the city of Grand Rapids announced the finalists in the search to find a new police chief. The list includes Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker, retired Milwaukee Police Inspector Jutiki Jackson and Chicago Police Commander Eric Winstrom. Full bios of each are available online.
The forum, which went well past the scheduled time, took place in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall, but residents could also watch and participate virtually.
The three finalists for the chief position faced tough questions from the community, including questions about police funding, policing the community and police officer retention.
Watch a replay of the forum and hear the candidate’s answers to all questions in the player below.
RETIRED MILWAUKEE POLICE INSPECTOR JUTIKI JACKSON
Jackson, a retired Milwaukee police inspector, addressed the controversy around his involvement in a shooting that happened while he was working for the Milwaukee Police Department in 1997.
Jackson says the shooting, which happened while he was chasing a suspect on foot, was ruled accidental and he was cleared by both internal affairs and the district attorney’s office.
“As I closed the distance he suddenly turned. He turned on me, he grabbed my arm, he grabbed my firearm and the momentum of that situation we both fell to the ground and it was at that point when the gun discharged and the shooting took place,” Jackson said. “It’s important to note that the district attorney’s office, along with the police department internal affairs division, conducted a full-scale investigation, and they both arrived at the same conclusion: that there was no wrong doing on my part.”
A Chicago Tribune article says there was conflicting information about what happened from people who were there.
In a statement provided to News 8 Monday, the city said it was aware of the shooting but also noted that Jackson went on to have a long and “distinguished” career with Milwaukee police.
On Tuesday, the president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP said the incident should have kept Jackson from being considered for the position.
Jackson is asking people to judge him based on his entire career.
“As I progressed through my career and received my education, I’d always had a business model, business mindset,” Jackson said. “When the (GRPD chief) opportunity came forward I wanted to experience it. … That passion is still burning in me. The passion to help solve community problems, to get into neighborhoods, and work with people to improve their lives.”
BATTLE CREEK POLICE DEPARTMENT CHIEF JIM BLOCKER
Blocker, the current Battle Creek Police Chief, spoke about improving relations between the community and police and about the need to recruit people from all backgrounds to serve in the department.
Blocker says his approach in Battle Creek has been to respond to adversity head on and keep the community informed as much as possible.
“The information is gonna get out there and it’s incredibly important today certainly for law enforcement to exercise that sense and live that sense of transparency to get that information out as soon as you practically can,” Blocker said.
CHICAGO POLICE COMMANDER ERIC WINSTROM
Winstrom, a commander with the Chicago Police Department, also brings a lot of experience. He says he is a reformer who wants to make policing better for everyone. He has worked as an attorney for the police department and has been tasked with helping reform the department.
Winstrom says he will bring effective change that is based in data.
He also says he will work to improve recruiting and department morale.
“You want to make the police department a great place for everyone to work,” he said. “Word travels quickly in the police community. If you’ve got the reputation in Grand Rapids of, that’s a police department that embraces diversity, it pays a good living and it treats officers well, you’re not gonna have the same challenges as elsewhere.”
The city has posted a survey to find out what people thought of each candidate. It will be available online and by calling 311 or 616.456.3000 until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26.
The final decision on who will be the chief is ultimately up to Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington. He will announce his selection in the coming weeks.
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.