GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This year's National Night Out is the last for Chief Eric Payne, in a Grand Rapids Police Department uniform.
"I think it also is a good opportunity to make sure that I'm talking to people out in the neighborhoods," he says. "I feel good. It's time. The decision has been made."
Chief Payne is retiring early next year, and in his tenure since 2019, he's established a neighborhood policing model, a victim assistance unit and an officer mental health position.
"I think we're in a better place today than what we were a year ago," he says. "But there's still work to be done."
City Manager Mark Washington says the city also needs to work to address increased violent crime, and continue the neighborhood policing that began with Chief Payne.
"I think we can always on better ways to build trust, transparency and accountability, and other ways to keep the community safe," Washington says. "(Chief Payne) will leave big shoes to fill, but I'm sure that there will be others prepared for the opportunity."
Washington says he expects the city will hire an outside search firm to conduct a nationwide search for a new chief.
"And (we'll) talk to community members and stockholders about what they'd like to see in the next chief," he says.
"I hope it's someone locally, but Grand Rapids deserves the best police chief we can get," Kent County Commissioner Robert S. Womack says.
He hopes to see a police chief who will focus on improved diversity in the department, and he hopes to see someone who gets the community.
"I just want the community to stay open minded and when we get a new chief, let's give them a fair start," Womack says.
An exact timeline and process in the search for a new police chief has yet to be laid out by city officials.
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