GRPD chief: Paid training helps diversity issue

Jean Vacario
One of Grand Rapids' newest officers, Jean Vacario, rides along with his field training officer. (Oct. 11, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s the first week of field training for Jean Vacario, one of Grand Rapids’ newest police officers.

“(There’s) a lot to take in. It’s been exciting,” he said.

For the next 25 weeks, Vicario will ride with his field training officer, learning how to put what he learned in the academy to use on the street.

“It’s been a lot of information, a lot of processing and seeing the city and interacting with a lot of people,” he said.

Vicario, 32, is no stranger to the department. He spent the last three years working at the Grand Rapids Police Department’s headquarters as a computer technician.

The job stoked his already heightened interest in police work.

“It was something I always wanted to do, even after graduating from high school,” Vicario said. “It just never happened.”

Money and time kept him from putting on the uniform. The cost of academy training is about $8,000. The husband and father of three children would still have to work his regular job to pay for classes, leaving no time for family.

But Vacario’s future changed when the city decided to pick up the academy bill.

“I think it will definitely help people in my situation, my age,” the Kentwood native said.

Grand Rapids joins cities including Kalamazoo in paying academy tuition as a way to attract a larger pool of candidates.

Vacario was sworn in last week as part of the GRPD’s latest recruit class, which city officials say is one of the most diverse in recent years.

While the call for more diversity in law enforcement is loud and clear, it’s not a simple problem to address. GRPD officials believe paying for the academy is one step toward a solution.

“Not just in their gender, in their racial and ethnic makeup, but diversity in the way they see issues,” added GRPD Chief David Rahinsky.