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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the Grand Rapids Police Department as a 2019 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest. The winning photo captures a spontaneous moment when patrol Sergeant Wojczynski stopped to assist an elderly woman shoveling her driveway.
Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan, has a population of 200,000, served by only 295 sworn officers. The department lost more than 100 officers in the economic downturn of the early 2000s and has not yet rebuilt its staffing levels. According to Grand Rapids Police Department (GRDP) Interim Chief David Kiddle, “We are actually in the middle of a staff deployment study to try to increase those numbers, and get some proof for our city commissioners that we need more officers.”
As a result of this staffing deficit, the GRDP recently combined hiring and recruiting with the community engagement unit in order to better coordinate efforts. The department’s recruiting process now starts at the grassroots level. “One of our big recruiting pushes is trying to ‘grow our own,’” Chief Kiddle says. “We’re trying to focus on growing the interest in our own community, spurring that interest, and following it through by bringing them onto the police department.”
In the past five years, the GRPD has launched a variety of community policing programs such as Pathways to Policing, the Youth Police Academy, and Police Explorers to cultivate interest and engage youth, with the hope of ultimately recruiting candidates. The department is “starting to see the fruits of that now,” according to Chief Kiddle; having “hired people from our Explorers program, Youth Academy, and more.”
These programs also assist with the department’s focus on trust building. Like many agencies across the country, the GRPD receives pushback from the community due to the lack of trust towards police officers. GRPD’s chief youth advisory board, Impact, works to create dialogue between youth and police. “Our purpose is to understand what the youth issues are and for these [students] to help us guide some of our youth policies,” says Chief Kiddle.
The GRPD’s initiatives aren’t limited to the young; the department is also sending officers and adult community members to a training program called “Policing at the Speed of Trust.” This workshop pairs a community volunteer with an officer to “build trust and see each other as individuals,” Chief Kiddle explains, rather than “police versus citizen.”
This hands-on approach to trust-building permeates the department’s community policing strategy. Each of the city’s five service zones has been assigned a specific community policing specialist. These specialists, and the zone captains they report to, focus on those areas in order to facilitate relationship building and to create an environment of trust. “The community comes to love their specialist because it’s a familiar face,” says Chief Kiddle. “The specialists work very closely with the neighborhood and are just a phone call away from the citizens, so that has been a very successful program.”
To further understand community concerns, the GRPD began working with Elucd to track trust, safety, and satisfaction. The company is able to measure real-time sentiments by issuing short surveys via social media. Each month the department receives the scores and is able to use the data to help better direct their community engagement efforts.
The GRDP’s wide range of resources and initiatives demonstrates its commitment to the community, and its hands-on approach makes those initiatives successful even with a staffing deficit. Chief Kiddle encourages all officers to do what Sgt. Wojczynski is doing in the winning picture – simply lending a hand. The GRPD understands that every interaction matters, even if it only affects one individual or one individual family—and the GRPD officers are all in.
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