GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Police Department picked internal candidate, Deputy Chief Eric Payne, to be the new police chief. Friday, City Manager Mark Washington made the announcement at a press conference.
“It is a great day for the city of Grand Rapids and our police department,” said Washington. The city used an outside search firm to assist with the search for a new police chief, and Washington said they searched "high and low."
“As it turned out, our candidate was right underneath our nose the whole time,” said Washington.
Payne was selected after a national search was conducted. He was among three finalists for the position who were vetted by city leaders and residents.
Former police chief David Rahinsky retired at the end of 2018, and Deputy Chief David Kiddle has been filling in during the interim period. The other two finalists for the position were Michael Yankowski, the current Police Chief in Lansing, and Larry Scirotto, the Assistant Police Chief in Pittsburgh. Yankowski withdrew from consideration on June 27.
WHO IS DEPUTY CHIEF ERIC PAYNE
Payne has been with GRPD for 32 years, and he started as a patrol officer and climbed through the ranks during his decades with the department.
"He has dedicated his life to law enforcement," said Washington. "He really wants to be here, wants to be in this community, has love for this community.”
Payne has been the deputy chief of operations for nearly two years. In that role, he oversaw the Patrol Division, Special Response Team, Traffic Unit, Office of Special Events and Canine Unit.
“Grand Rapids was the place I wanted to come and work,” said Payne on Friday. He was born in Dowagiac and has spent close to 40 years in West Michigan.
“I still feel like I have something to offer in policing, and this is my community that I live in,” he said.
Payne has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Grand Valley State University. He also has advanced leadership training from the Law Enforcement Executive Leadership Institute and Leadership Institute for Police Executives and New Chiefs.
He will become the police chief effective July 22.
The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, the union that represents officers, said they are looking forward to working with Payne as the new police chief.
"We have known and worked with Chief Payne for many years and know him to be fair and open. He understands the needs of our department and of our community," a statement said. "Our department is poised to continue our status as one of the finest police departments in the country and to expand on that excellence."
WHAT'S NEXT FOR GRPD
"This is a day where we begin a new period of policing in Grand Rapids," said Mark Washington at Friday's press conference.
And Payne said that it would not be business as usual once he takes over as police chief, reiterating "there will be changes to the Grand Rapids Police Department.”
Payne emphasized that community policing will be his focus moving forward.
"We have to make sure that every member of this department understands that is our goal,” he said about community policing. Payne also referenced a recent press conference that was held at Joe Taylor Park to address a recent string of shootings in the city.
The city manager, interim police chief David Kiddle, elected leaders and members of the community all spoke at that event and Payne said it was something he would like to see more of under his leadership.
“That’s building the relationships in the community. Have good solid relationships in the community will help us in reducing the crime rate and solve these crimes,” he said.
Payne will be Grand Rapids' first black police chief. He said that he wants to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community to address concerns about biased policing.
“I know we as a community have a lot of challenges that face us, not only in public safety but in many other areas, but I take comfort in knowing that Deputy Chief Payne is prepared for this challenge,” said Washington.
The soon-to-be police chief also said he wants to make the department more transparent by having open data on arrests and traffic stops in order to let the public know what the department is doing.
“I understand that these things aren’t going to happen overnight, but it is something that we need to focus on and make sure we are committed to doing," he said.
The Grand Rapids Police Department received the results of an extensive staffing study at the end of 2018 as outgoing police chief David Rahinsky was leaving. Payne said his next steps will be to make sure the findings in that reports are implemented.
Payne mentioned, specifically, that the department will be rolling out a new "foreign national policy," which will give officers direction on dealing with immigrants. This comes in the wake of the department getting scrutiny for turning over an American citizen to ICE after he was arrested. Payne said that policy will be implementing in upcoming weeks.
"There is a lot good that is going on in the Grand Rapids Police Department, and I think I can make it even better," Payne said. "Everyone in the community wants the same thing and that is a safe community."
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