GRPD chief finalists talk diversity, transparency

The candidates to be GRPD's next chief at a public forum. (June 26, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the second night and a row Thursday, Grand Rapids police chief candidates took questions from the community.

Finalists Ernest Finley, a deputy chief in Atlanta; Franklin, Tenn. Police Chief David Rahinsky; Port Huron Department of Public Safety Chief Michael Reaves; and East Grand Rapids Public Safety Director Mark Herald were at the Gerald R. Ford Public Library and Museum downtown.

The four candidates talked about community policing, transparency to gain public trust and staying on budget so taxpayers don’t pay the price.

“We’ve gotten a pretty big wedge in the relationship between the police officers and the community,” pastor and community activist Bryan Blakely said.

The last census shows Grand Rapids is home to a fast-growing Hispanic population, 20% of residents are African American and the city has residents from every Asian country. A diverse police department was top of mind for many forum attendees.

“I think it’s very important for us in the community to be able to see leadership represented within the department. We need to see people that look like us,” Blakely’s wife Toresa Blakely said.

“I would like to see a police chief that will, if people aren’t allowed to get a Michigan driver’s license, at least let people use an operable license from another country or an international license,” resident Cindy Hicks said.

People were also looking for a department with transparency in its procedures and a focus on reaching troubled kids.

“We have a community of young people that we’re losing them and they’re dying,” Toresa Blakely said. “We’re losing them in many ways, so it’s important that we have a chief who can see them where they are.”

The city manager hopes to appoint a chief early next month. City officials are asking people who went to the forums for firm feedback before they make that final decision.

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