Retirements spike for Grand Rapids police

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department is realizing the other end of a hiring spree in the 1990s as the officers hired back then are now reaching retirement age.

GRPD reports that 17 officers retired in 2019, up from eight in 2018 and six in 2017. In January of this year alone, nine officers have informed the department of their decision to retire.

A bar graph of retirement number of the Grand Rapids Police Department in the last four years.

“It impacts our community,” GRPD spokesperson Sgt. John Wittkowski told News 8. Wittkowski was also hired in the 90s and has served 24 years on the police force.

“It’s taxing on our department,” he said. “The amount of years of experience — certainly the breadth of experience and just the knowledge of the street and all those connections that these officers have made —there is nothing you can do to replace that.”

Wittkowski said the department is barely keeping up with replacing the retirees. Last year 24 recruits joined the force. 

“We’re holding our own,” Wittkowski said. “We’re answering calls for service. We’re still doing what we always have done, but it’s a little more difficult.”

The department has worked to come up with creative ways to recruit new officers. The city keeps a continuous posting online to constantly accept new applications.

While new officers don’t match the experience of those leaving, Wittkowski says the young officers bring value to the team. He said their skills with technology and social media help with police work.

“They just seem to have this ability — innate ability — to communicate on all levels with any particular person,” Wittkowski said.

The GRPD hopes more officers like them are on the way.

“It’s a great time to go into law enforcement. We are hiring. We encourage people to apply,” Wittkowski said emphatically. “This is just a great place to work.”