GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Could more officers on the beat improve strained relations between the Grand Rapids Police Department and the community? At least one city commissioners believes so.
“I think we need to add some officers to the force,” First Ward Commissioner Dave Shaffer told fellow commissioners during a budget review session Tuesday.
Just a few weeks before commissioners are expected to adopt next year’s budget, Shaffer pitched the idea to spend a couple million dollars to add between five and seven officers. Under his plan, some of the money would be taken from other general fund projects, including $1.5 million from river restoration, and some of the funds from federal grants available to hire officers.
His idea is that more manpower could help make the streets safer and lighten officers’ work load, giving them more time to engage with the community.
But many on the commission questioned if adding more officers is the answer to cutting crime and animosity towards police.
“We need to do somethings differently,” Third Ward Commissioner David Allen said. “The same model isn’t producing different results. We’re getting the same results.”
Like many cities across the country, Grand Rapids continues to struggle to find ways to enforce the law and at the same time improve relations with members of the minority community.
“Doing what we’ve done may not necessarily be the answer,” Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear added.
After a long discussion, commissioners decided investing in community relations is a budget priority, but with some flexibility. City staff will look for ways to add $1 million to the budget each year over the next five years to fund police-community relations. It could be spent on more officers or alternative ideas designed to both increase safety and community support.
Shaffer remained hopeful the money will be spent on manpower.
“I would ultimately say it’s important to be open to other suggestions, but I think this money sets aside that,” he said.
With the budget due June 30, now comes a scramble to find the money and work out a plan that makes everyone happy.