GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Only a handful of people took part in the first of four planned meetings meant to get an idea of what Grand Rapids residents want in their next police chief.
On Wednesday, Public Sector Search & Consulting, which the city hired to recruit candidates, moderated a virtual forum in which people could list the personal characteristics and professional experience they desired in the department’s future leader. Current Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne announced his retirement in early August.
READ MORE: GRPD Chief Payne announces retirement plans
The firm will then use the input to help build a candidate profile and screen applicants.
Six people spoke. Among other traits, they said they were looking for a chief who would be respectful, have good communication, instill accountability and foster a supportive environment.
“I really look for a chief of police that would be respectful and respondent to critique,” said one speaker. “That’s something that I’ve struggled to see.”
Another woman, who said her neighborhood was over policed and made people fearful, said, “My son was, I think he was like three years old, maybe four, [and] the police came to his school… and he said, ‘Mom, the police came to my school and I was scared. He wanted to shake my hand, but I was too scared.’ It’s ridiculous.”
“Be strong, stand up for your officers, stand up for your position,” said one man.
A fourth speaker said, “You need a chief that will come in and absolutely have that relationship that lets everyone know what is accepted, what is not accepted, and hold them to the fire when they do do something wrong.”
City Manager Mark Washington, who will appoint the next chief, said in an interview with FOX 17 prior to the meeting that those are some of the qualities he wants as well.
“It’s going to take a special person to do this job,” said Washington. “I’m looking for a chief that’s really, really going to help us move forward in these very difficult times. This is a time where policing is difficult across the country.”
Washington called this search different from the one in 2019 with Chief Payne, noting the movement set off by last summer’s racial and social justice protests and a possible smaller pool of candidates with so many officers leaving the profession under the scrutiny.
The community input, Washington says, is valued.
“I recognize that it is not just a position that lies within in one department, but it is the community’s police chief,” said Washington. “It’s important for me to get the perspective of the community, of residents, of neighborhoods, of organizations, of businesses, and find out what are the qualities, characteristics, concerns, issues that are important for them and how that should be factored into the process.”
Recruitment is expected to begin in November and last through the end of the year. A final list of candidates is possible in January.
There are other community input sessions. All of the meetings will be held virtually and can be found by clicking here.
For those who cannot participate, thoughts can be shared in the Police Chief Search Survey.