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Shooting death of Patrick Lyoya, building trust | GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom reflects on one year in office

A mere 25 days into his new job as Chief, Eric Winstrom had to deal with a major challenge: the controversial officer-involved shooting death of Patrick Lyoya.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Chief of Police Eric Winstrom is reflecting on his first year in office including the lasting impact of the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya, building trust with the community, and what he hopes to accomplish in 2023.

Winstrom was officially sworn in on March 7 last year.

A mere 25 days into his new job as Chief, Winstrom had to deal with a major challenge: the controversial officer-involved shooting death of Patrick Lyoya.

"I know there was rioting here back in 2020 and that was a big fear of mine. That when we released this video, the passion would be so intense," said Wisntrom. "Individuals from outside the city, people with bad intentions taking advantage of an already difficult situation oftentimes will come in and wreak havoc so that's what I was really concerned about."

But the chief says he's proud of how his officers were able to keep the peace, in addition to handling a morale hit to the department following the shooting.

"We didn't have one officer use force against a protester for these protests out there on Monroe Center. Not one. I'd say that was the biggest accomplishment of mine, but really it was a team effort of the department last year." 

When he first started the job, Winstrom said one of his biggest priorities was to build trust with the community. 

He believes he's done that by being transparent and accountable after incidents as soon as possible.

"It takes consistent, ethical behavior," he said. "Showing integrity and showing the police department's doing the right thing over time. It's a journey, not a destination to build trust. We're going to keep doing it for as long as I'm here."

He says the biggest challenge in 2023 will be retention, recruitment, and diversification of the force.

There are currently 273 sworn officers and their goal is 305.

Winstrom said there have been positive strides including: 

  • A new contract offering a significant, competitive raise
  • A larger online footprint
  • Recruitments at gyms, sports programs and historically black colleges

"The best way to recruit is to be known as a police department that's a good place to work at. So you mentioned morale and having good morale here is the best recruiting tool. Police officers talk. They talk to family members and potential recruits and potential applicants." 

He's optimistic about filling the vacancies and keeping morale up which is trending in the right direction in part to support from the city.

Once staffing numbers have increased, Winstrom expressed he'd love to have foot or community officers patrolling downtown in heavily foot-trafficked areas in the 3rd ward.

Traffic problems and speeding are complaints the department receives often. According to Winstrom, officers don't have much time to do proactive law enforcement in this area such as speed traps because they're going from 911 call to 911 call. 

Increasing staffing numbers, he says, is crucial to the department's success.

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