GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky wants to use a portion of the city’s budget to hire additional officers to improve community relations.
Tuesday, Grand Rapids City Commission earmarked $1 million a year for the next five years to go toward police and community relations.
Right now, GRPD says they have roughly 100 fewer officers than they had 20 years ago — which means even officers who are assigned solely to community policing are answering everyday calls just to keep up.
The Grand Rapids Police Department has been working on building positive community relationships for years. Officer Jeremy Huffman has been a community policing specialist since the ‘90s.
“We had a lot more officers,” said Huffman. “At that point, we had community officers that could focus specifically on community relations.”
There were about 400 officers when Huffman started with the department. Currently, there are 292 sworn officers — that drop means community officers like Huffman have gone from being proactive to reactive.
“It gets frustrating, but it also gets frustrating because you have to call people and say, hey sorry I couldn’t come and do A, B or C, or sorry I missed this meeting,” said Huffman.
On a busy night, GRPD has around 400 calls with some 40 officers on the street, which means all hands on deck just to keep up with calls.
“Everyone is talking about engagement, engagement takes time,” said Rahinsky.
Rahinsky would like 12 more offices in order to add an evening and weekend community officer shift. That would bring the total number of officers up to 304, which is still below the national average of 1.7 officers per thousand residents. For Grand Rapids that would be 330 officers.
“We are not looking for more officers just for enforcement opportunities. So if someone is critical, you don’t need officers for enforcement I understand that perspective, but we need for officers for engagement,” said Rahinsky.
GRPD has been asking for more officers for the past couple of years. The chief hopes he can hire at least six more this year to get started.