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Study recommends more civilian staff, not more officers, for Grand Rapids police department

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Grand Rapids city hall.

The Grand Rapids police department doesn’t need more officers. It needs more civilian staff and better organization.

That’s the conclusion from a new study commissioned by the city.

The city paid about $100,000 for the study, which was done by the consulting firm Hillard Heintze.

Debra Kirby of Hillard Heintze presented the results to city commissioners on Tuesday. She said the city’s police department cut back on civilian staff when the economy was bad.

“But when that civilian staff went away, it didn’t mean the work went away,” she said. “And so now, you have law enforcement officers engaging in a significant amount of administrative work.”

The report also recommended the police department make better use of data to decide how it handles different types of calls. Most of the calls the Grand Rapids police department handles are for low-level concerns that don’t turn out to be a crime, the report says.

The report didn’t address the controversies the department has faced in recent years over how it handles interactions with people of color in the city. Last month, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights held two listening sessions to hear from residents about their encounters with the police department.

Interim police chief David Kiddle says he welcomes some of the conclusions from the latest report, and hopes that it will lead to more resources for the department.

“The report is recommending additional personnel,” Kiddle says. “Additional personnel costs money. It may not be the same cost of an officer, but it’s going to be additional funding that’s going to be required for the department.”

City manager Mark Washington says he’ll consider the recommendations from the report when he puts together his budget proposal for next year. But he says the report is just one of the factors he’ll consider. And he indicated he still hasn’t ruled out hiring additional community police officers for the department.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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