GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the City Commission of Grand Rapids discusses the possibility of cutting $9 million dollars from the police department’s budget, Chief Eric Payne says it would cause ‘significant’ change and possibly impact response times to calls and delay investigations.
The proposed $9 million budget cut could result in roughly 70 sworn officers being laid off, which would equate to the entire night shift throughout the week.
The potential cuts come amidst a nationwide discussion over policing, following the death of George Floyd. The defunding model encourages cities to reallocate funds from the police department to other agencies, gearing the money towards mental health workers, social workers and other professionals in a preventative strategy.
“The main thing is that we hear the public. We’ve heard loud and clear of what is being asked of us. We are making adjustments to make this a better police department. I believe we have a good police department.”
Chief Payne says the department is already looking at innovative solutions without the deep cut to the budget, already instating more civilian positions.
"We are re-imagining things in policing with how we respond to certain calls, whether it's sworn or civilian people responding to transition towards."
In June, the City Commission voted to reallocate a little less than $400,000. The money will be used to create the following positions:
- A civilian chief to assist the police chief
- Civilian public information officer
- A position in the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability
Besides the new positions, Chief Payne says he’s looking at other ways to create a better policing strategy.
“I point out our hot team that we have established that works with the homeless population. We are looking to do that with mental health and partnering officers with trained social workers to be able to respond to different kinds of calls. So I’m looking at what we can do.”
Ultimately, the Chief says he’s trying new strategies and policies but believes the potential budget cuts may be risk response times and the ability to solve crimes in a timely fashion.
“A $9 million dollar reduction for me is far more than re-imagining. It would require a totally new restructuring of our department and how we provide service to the community. I believe it will impact to a certain degree the safety of the community members in Grand Rapids.”