GRPD chief says he’s thinking about reforms, not cuts

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Payne said his focus continues to be on outlining and implementing reforms, not a proposal to slash his department’s funds.

Earlier this week, a Grand Rapids city commissioner suggested cutting GRPD’s share of the general fund from about 39% ($55.1 million) to the minimum allowed by the city charter, 32%. That would work out to $9.4 million less for the department.

During a brief Friday afternoon press conference, Payne said if the cuts were to happen, they would definitely impact operations.

“That concerns me,” he said, though he stressed the proposal is not a certainty. “The safety of the community is my No. 1 priority and any significant reductions to our budget could potentially impact that. And that’s not a scare tactic, it’s a reality.”

He said he was not yet prepared to say exactly what the cut would mean for operations.

The police officers unions on Thursday warned against it, arguing it would result in layoffs that would negatively affect neighborhoods with the most crime — which they say already don’t have enough patrols.

Payne said he’s not crunching numbers and is instead focusing on reforms, saying he wants GRPD to serve as a model of racial equity.

He said he has been meeting with community members to hear their concerns; working with city leaders and consulting with legal and financial teams; and speaking frequently with Brandon Davis, the city’s new oversight and public accountability director.

“I’ve met with people who want to be involved and be a part of a solution,” he said.

He said several people had brought up the “8 Can’t Wait” set of proposed reforms. He said many of them were already addressed in the changes to GRPD’s use of force policy released last week. One aspect of that is the explicit banning of chokeholds, which Payne has stressed was already not a practice used within the department.

“We set a timeline of the next 60 days to have revision (of policies). I hope to have it done sooner,” Payne said.

Also Friday, the Kent County Chiefs of Police Association, of which Payne is a member, released a statement saying they “embrace the diversity in our cities and communities” and understand that public trust come from fair policing. They said they are “committed to just and impartial policing practices” and “reassert our commitment to model and teach diversity and inclusive behavior.”

The statement cast the national call for police reform as stemming from “the actions of a single officer” who knelt on George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis.

“This … cast a bad light on the law enforcement profession, as well as implies all law enforcement are accepting of misconduct or covering it up,” the statement reads in part. “We can assure you this is not the case with our agencies.”

During his press conference, Payne noted that morale among GRPD officers has suffered amid a physically demanding and mentally draining few weeks. He said there are programs meant to help them cope with stress. He also thanked officers for their continuing hard work and commitment to their community.

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