GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As he stood in front of city commissioners Tuesday to update them on the investigation into the shooting of Patrick Lyoya by one of his officers, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom reiterated one of his philosophies about policing.
“A city is entitled to be policed in a manner embraced by the city,” he told commissioners.
Even before the April 4 shooting death of Lyoya stirred protests, GRPD, like many other law enforcement agencies, faced criticism over the way it polices communities of color.
While he says it’s too early to talk about policy and training changes that the shooting of Lyoya may bring to GRPD, Winstrom, who has been chief fewer than 50 days, talked about a change in attitude within his department and law enforcement in general.
“To shift from a warrior mindset to a guardian mindset. And how do you accomplish that? Part of it is training. Part of it is policy,” Winstrom said.
A key piece of the policy portion is summed up in three words: sanctity of life. Adding “sanctity of life” language to policy is meant to emphasize the idea that only the minimum amount of force necessary should be used by officers.
The Chicago Police Department, where Winstrom was a commander before coming to GRPD, added it to its use of force policy in 2020.
Winstrom said it’s an example of an evolving attitude he has witnessed in law enforcement training since becoming an officer more than 20 years ago. Moving from the basics, like how to handcuff a suspect and read them their right, to now emphasizing an officer’s role as a guardian.
“We have to let the officers know it is a culture change,” Winstrom said. “It’s not 2000. It’s not 2019. A lot of the world changed in 2020, putting it out there that sanctity of life is our priority, is important for the culture.”
One critic of the Chicago’s sanctity of life policy and other changes to its use of force policy called it a sham designed to create the illusion of community engagement. But Winstrom is convinced adding sanctity of life and related policies can bring real change to GRPD and the way officers approach the public.
“They are very open-minded for new policy,” Winstrom said of GRPD officers. “So I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge. It’s going to be a real opportunity for us to make sure the Grand Rapids Police Department is an example for Michigan, for the country.”