GRPD hires most diverse recruit class in city history

GRPD changed some requirements for candidates to attract more minorities

grand rapids police department, diverse class
The Grand Rapids Police Department's first recruiting class of 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids announced Monday that its first set of police recruits for 2017 is the most diverse class in the history of the city.

The Grand Rapids Police Department recruitment class, which was whittled down from 1,377 applicants to 10, includes:

  • Three African-American men,
  • Three Caucasian women,
  • Two Caucasian men,
  • One Hispanic man,
  • And one Asian-American woman.

Nine of the recruits live in Kent County. Three live in Grand Rapids.

In a press conference Monday, 24 Hour News 8 asked GRPD Chief David Rahinksy if he felt the class more accurately reflects the community.

“Certainly this class does,” he said. “And to that point, this in no way detracts from the men and women who are here:

Though diversity can connect officers to a wide variety of citizens through shared life experiences, Rahinsky says all of the department’s more than 300 officers serve the community proudly.

“It’s going to build on trust. That trust is going to help us further reduce the crime level here in Grand Rapids. It’s going to diffuse any tension that may exist in some neighborhoods,” he said.

Currently, 235 of GRPD officers are Caucasian men — nearly 70 percent of the force. The department also has 28 Caucasian women, 12 African-American men, no African-American women, nine Hispanic men, three Hispanic women, six Asian-American men and one Asian-American woman.

For several years as national tensions rose amid officer-involved shootings, there has been a push for GRPD to hire more minorities to accurately reflect the community it serves.

As part of the effort to diversify the force, the new candidate class is made up of the department’s first non-sworn recruits.

In the past, candidates had to have already gone through and passed the police academy. In this recruiting cycle, the city required only that candidates be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma.

“It was our hypothesis that we could improve the diversity both having a higher concentration of local and people of color and females. And it appears as though we’ve hit the target on the head,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said.

Chief Rahinsky that under the new standards, he doesn’t care if someone comes in well-versed in Michigan State statute or current policing philosophies — the department will train you.

“I want someone who’s got a character of integrity, ’cause that’s something we can’t teach here,” Rahinksy said.

Grand Rapids Police Department Chief David Rahinsky
Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky speaks with 24 Hour News 8 on March 20, 2017.

He says recruits just have to have the heart and passion to put on the uniform and serve.

“The potential exists that there may be a higher attrition rate now that we’re hiring non-sworn. Certainly when we were hiring sworn personnel, they came to the job with a more complete picture of what the job entailed,” Rahinksy said when asked if the lack of training would affect recruits’ success. “So we’re aware that there is a chance that the attrition rate amongst non-sworn personnel may be higher. But I have no doubt in the end that this is the way of the future and this is going to make us a stronger department and a stronger community.”

Rahinksy says the recruits will attend Grand Valley State University’s academy. The city pays for their academy training and provides them a salary.

After the academy, the recruits will attend GRPD training. They’ll be in training for about a year before they go on solo patrol.

The second round of recruiting for 2017 recently opened. People interested in applying can visit GRPD’s recruitment Facebook page for more information. It will be several months before the second class is announced.