Community weighs in on hiring GRPD chief

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids held the first of four meetings Tuesday seeking to find out what the community wants in a new police chief.

Chief Kevin Belk announced his retirement in January after 34 years serving with the Grand Rapids Police Department — though he has only been chief since 2008.

City manager Greg Sundstrom said his goal is to find the best chief the city can afford. The city aims to meet that goal with a process that all citizens can access.

“I think I know the set of characteristics that our next police chief should have, but it is really important that I hire someone who reflects the needs and interests of the entire community,” Sundstrom said.

About a dozen people showed up at the Union High School cafeteria on Tuesday evening to provide their opinion.

“Somebody who is comfortable enough to go into every single neighborhood and go into every single situation,” resident Nola Steketee said.

“I would like to see an individual who is willing to listen to the community and focus on the assets that we have here,” resident Joshua Duggan added.

The assets in the city coffers will also be an issue.

“In general, we tend to be at the middle or lower end of the pay scale for these kinds of jobs,” Sundstrom said. “So I do believe that there are highly qualified people especially in large cities who wouldn’t even consider coming to Grand Rapids due to our pay scale.”

That further underscores the importance of this process. Citizens’ opinions will be compiled into a candidate profile that will be part of the job posting.

“I hope that they [the candidates] realize right away that we are a city that believes in community policing and this police chief has to be able to work with the people in this community,” Sundstrom says.

There are three more community forums are scheduled:

  • Ward 2: Feb. 19 at City-Middle High School located at 1720 Plainfield Ave. NE
  • Ward 3: Feb. 20 at Gerald R. Ford Middle School located at 851 Madison Ave. SE
  • In Spanish: Feb. 27 at Cesar Chavez School located at 1205 Grandville Ave. SW

All the meetings begin at 6 p.m. and run to 7:30 p.m.

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