GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After more than three decades in uniform, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne plans to retire.
The city announced Payne’s decision in a news release Tuesday.
Payne, who assumed his police chief duties back in 2019, intends to retire in early 2022.
In addition to being the first African American chief in GRPD’s history, Payne also led the department through public scrutiny on policing by creating and implementing the department’s first-ever community informed strategic plan.
At the same time, he was navigating the public safety impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other reforms he was involved in include a neighborhood policing model, victim assistance unit, officer mental health position, documented use of force procedure reform based on “8 can’t wait” and police participation in the city’s first co-response HOT team effort.
Payne said in a statement that now is the time for him to hand the reins off to spend more time with his family.
“When I took this position, I was clear with the community, the city manager and – most importantly – my family, I had a clear set of goals I wanted to accomplish but that this was going to be a three- to five-year assignment,” Payne said.
Those goals included “transforming public safety in Grand Rapids by focusing on community relationships, transparency, staffing and training,” according to Payne.
City Manager Mark Washington says Payne has positioned the department – and the city – well heading into the future.
“The last few years have been challenging for law enforcement nationally, and Grand Rapids hasn’t been immune to that, but I can’t imagine a better person to help us navigate this moment than Eric Payne,” Washington said. “His commitment to the people of this community and his officers has been a guiding force as we worked to reimagine public safety in this city.”
Payne first came to Grand Rapids to attend school at Grand Valley State University and joined the Grand Rapids Police Department in 1987.
He worked his way up the ranks before being tapped by Washington to lead GRPD in July 2019.
Payne credits his deep roots for informing his role as chief and dealing with some of the challenges he’s had to confront.
“I came into the job with an idea of what I wanted to do,” Payne said. “Community policing, enhancing training and accountability measures on diversity and inclusion, ensuring we were a values-based organization that matched those of the people we serve, in many ways I was already taking the department in this direction before the events of last year. I think that made it easier to have some of the tough conversations other communities might have struggled with and it certainly helped in writing our Department Strategic Plan because the community reaffirmed, we all wanted the same things.”
Washington said he plans to announce a process to fill the position in the coming months.