Police union pushes back against GRPD staffing study

Posted at 10:56 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 23:06:44-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich--  It's a department that's been under a lot of scrutiny lately, in light of what some are calling 'questionable arrests' by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Now, a 53-page study conducted by the firm Hillard Heintze has been released, and says GRPD doesn't need more officers, but better organizational skills.

The findings are being questioned by the police union, who says staffing levels are a real concern for the department.

"We’re doing more with less.  The demands being placed on law enforcement nationally are changing, they’re growing," says Captain Geoff Colland, the vice president of the Grand Rapids Command Officers Association.

During its study, Hillard Heintze conducted two site visits, interviewed sworn officers, civilian staff and elected officials. They also surveyed GRPD personnel regarding their opinions on their roles there, and examined several documents.

Hillard Heintze listed nine key findings in its report with regard to how GRPD operates:

  • Patrol staffing supports current demand
  • The work schedule contributes to staffing challenges and perceptions regarding sufficiency of staffing, particularly the Detective Unit
  • Policy improvements and improved administrative resourcing would lessen staffing pressures within the Detectives Unit and Patrol
  • Effective use of the CAD system with records management system (RMS) integration would eliminate redundancies and decrease administrative time spent by officers
  • Improving case management practices would ensure better use of investigative personnel
  • Hiring additional civilian staff would free up officers' time for assignments that require sworn powers of enforcement and arrest
  • We commend the strong officer moral evident within the GRPD
  • Alternative response strategies and technological resources would help the GRPD more effectively manage the demand for police services
  • The GRPD needs to establish a focused, data-driven policing strategy

Captain Collard says he just saw this report for the first time over the weekend.

"What I can tell you is that I’ve read through the whole document. The other thing is that it's a 50 page document and it took four months to compile. We are at no point where we can really into the minutia of the findings of that," said Collard.

Among the report's findings: sworn officers are doing too much administrative work and other tasks that could be done by civilian staff. It also suggested that officers don't necessarily have to be on hand to enforce parking, false alarms or minor crashes.

"My belief is that if their child is involved in a car crash that an officer would be dispatched to come take the report, help them out, have the resources that they need to move on from that crash," said Collard. "What the report is really recommending is to not do certain things, and again, that is a question that should be bigger than the police department."

What the union says is not in the report, is what they say is an ongoing rift between the city and the police department. The union says it dates back to the days of former Chief David Rahinsky, who took over in 2014 and had his last day in office in Grand Rapids this past December.

The City of Grand Rapids didn't want to comment on the study Monday, saying the matter would be discussed at its Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday morning.