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A closer look at the candidates for Grand Rapids police chief

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 18:39:25-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids' City Manager Mark Washington will decide in the coming weeks who will be the city's next police chief.

The final three candidates were announced Wednesday.

All three of the nominees are from outside Grand Rapids Police.

Washington says he's confident the candidates encompass the wants of the community: a focus on community policing.

“They’ve all dealt with very controversial issues. They’ve all proven their ability to collaborate with the community, and be progressive in their reform efforts. I think those are some of the common qualities that they all have together,” Washington said.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, one candidate, Eric Winstrom, is said to have asked a Chicago-area ADA for a "favor" when charges were not issued for a suspect in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl. The prosecutor claimed there was insufficient evidence, the Sun-Times reports.

The Chicago Police Department stood by Winstrom, saying they are simply seeking justice for the girl's family.

Winstrom has been with Chicago PD for more than 20 years. Some of his notable accomplishments include handing Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, where he says in his cover letter they allowed the community to express their first-amendment rights without using force.

Winstrom was called back to the command position from a different role in 2020 to help the department handle civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd. He says he worked dusk till dawn to restore order to the city.

RELATED: Read the resumes of the 3 candidates for Grand Rapids police chief

The only candidate to have sat in the police chief's role, and the only candidate from West Michigan, is Jim Blocker, Battle Creek police chief.

Jim says he is proud of the progress the department has made under his leadership. Blocker was appointed as chief after the abrupt departure of his predecessor. After a nationwide search, he still was selected for the top job permanently.

Summer 2020, Battle Creek saw no civil unrest after the death of George Floyd. Grand Rapids had to call in the national guard. Blocker says the difference is community relationships, a skill he is hoping to bring to the table in Grand Rapids.

"I like to talk to new officers and say the academy taught you a little bit. Now senior officers are going to teach you a little bit more. But this community is going to teach you everything about being a good officer, and you better listen. My hall of fame is not nearly as long as my hall of shame. But all that is through the community, and it's incredible. How much you learn from interacting with folks who aren't like you. Maybe they weren't raised the way you were. But you begin to develop that big 'e': empathy. I think that makes you a better officer and a better person," Blocker said.

Candidate Jutiki Jackson is a retired commander from the Milwaukee Police Department, who most recently has served as head of security for the National Basketball Association.

Jackson says under his leadership, he formed a valuable relationship within the faith-based community in Milwaukee and was able to become more of a proactive commander than a reactive one.

Jackson says in his cover letter that partnerships with other community leaders lead to reduced crime in young people and more available resources. He also has a track record for recruiting diverse officers to the department.

A community forum will be held Jan. 19 at Grand Rapids City Hall starting at 6:30, so the community can ask candidates questions. It will be held both online and in person. Questions for the candidates can be submitted ahead of time here.

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