GRPD chief to hold update on reform, calls for funding cut

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne will hold a press conference this afternoon to talk about calls for reform and to slash funding to his department.

The event is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Grand Rapids Police Department headquarters downtown. Payne is expected to give an update on recent meetings with community leaders and plans to ensure racial equity in policing moving forward.

Last week, GRPD announced several changes to its use of force policy, which included among other things an explicit ban on chokeholds and a requirement for officers to intervene if they see excessive force being used.

Earlier this week, a Grand Rapids city commissioner proposed cutting GRPD’s funding from about 39% of the general fund ($55.1 million) to the minimum allowed by city charter, 32%. It would be a cut of about $9.4 million. Commissioner Joe Jones also suggested changing who responds to certain calls, suggesting other types of professionals be sent to reports of issues involving substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health.

The police officers unions on Thursday warned against the funding cut, arguing it would result in layoffs that would negatively affect neighborhoods with the most crime — which they say already don’t have enough patrols.

Also Friday, the Kent County Chiefs of Police released a statement saying they “embrace the diversity in our cities and communities” and understand that public trust come from fair policing. They said they are “committed to just and impartial policing practices” and “reassert our commitment to model and teach diversity and inclusive behavior.”

The statement cast the national call for police reform as stemming from “the actions of a single officer” who knelt on George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis.

“This … cast a bad light on the law enforcement profession, as well as implies all law enforcement are accepting of misconduct or covering it up,” the statement reads in part. “We can assure you this is not the case with our agencies.”