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Public comment held for three GRPD police chief candidates

The Grand Rapids Police Department heard public comments and questions for their top three police chief candidates.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Three candidates were selected from a list of 35 applicants to be the next chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department. The community asked questions and met the candidates Wednesday night.

The three men are from Battle Creek, Milwaukee and Chicago. The comment session took place on the 9th Floor City Commission Chambers in City Hall.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the candidates gave brief remarks and answer questions from community members. Questions were asked in-person, over a chat feature on the city's livestreams, and some were submitted by the community through a website prior to the event.

Here's some background on the candidates: 

Jim Blocker, Chief of Police — Battle Creek, Mich. 

Chief Blocker is the 18th Chief of Police for the Battle Creek Police Department. Chief Blocker served within the Battle Creek Police Department for 25 years in various capacities: patrol officer, community police officer, member of the SWAT team, detective and executive officer.

When asked at the forum about why he would leave his position in Battle Creek, he says he wants to lead GRPD with focus on community engagement.

"This is a pivotal moment, a real pivot point," said Blocker. "We've come away from defunding the police back to refunding the police, but the key here is the community is going to demand that we do it differently."

Check out his resume here.

Jutiki Jackson, Police Inspector (ret.) — Milwaukee, Wis. 

Jackson had a 26-year policing career with the Milwaukee Police Department. He spent ten years as a police officer before being promoted to sergeant, lieutenant, and then captain as a 7th District Commander. Jackson was promoted to inspector in 2016 and became a member of the police chief’s executive command team.  

Opening his comments on the night, Jackson addressed a shooting he was involved in as an officer in 1997 with the Milwaukee Police Department. In a scuffle, his gun discharged and killed the suspect. It was ruled accidental.

"Men and women join the police department to save lives, to help people, to get involved with the community, to solve community problems," said Jackson. "Unfortunately the shooting happened, and its something that I think about and its with me, it has been for the last 24 years."

Check out his resume here. 

Eric Winstrom, Police Commander — Chicago, Ill. 

Commander Winstrom has served in the Chicago Police Department (CPD) for over twenty years in various patrol, tactical, investigative, and administrative positions. He is currently an executive on the CPD Leadership Team and leads the Area 5 Detective Division where he oversees a staff of 200, including 40 homicide detectives. 

Winstrom was asked about his thoughts on the defund the police movement. He says he is open to reallocating resources if done appropriately.

"It would have to be done thoughtfully," said Winstrom. "And we'd have to see, is there a reason that we're sending an individual in uniform with a gun to this call for safety? Then that seems to be a police call."

Now, the community will be able to share their thoughts via a web survey that can be taken here. The survey will be open for comment through 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26. 

You can learn more about each candidate here.

Watch the community forum below:

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