GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The three finalists vying to be the next Grand Rapids police chief completed an additional round of interviews with the city Thursday following tough questions from the community at a Wednesday night public forum.
The decision on who will be selected for the role is ultimately up to Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington. His office is collecting feedback from the community on each finalist.
The finalists are Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker, Chicago Police Commander Eric Winstrom, and retired Milwaukee Police Inspector Jutiki Jackson. Full bios of each are available online.
Jackson is responding to criticism following a 1997 shooting he was involved in as a Chicago police officer, which was ruled accidental by internal affairs and the districts attorney’s office.
He told the community at the Wednesday night forum that his gun went off in a struggle as he was trying to arrest a suspect reaching for his weapon. He later learned the suspect was not armed.
The Greater Grand Rapids NAACP told News 8 the retired police inspector should not have been considered for this position because of questions surrounding what happened. Jackson says he will work with them to improve policing.
“We can continue to serve members of our minority communities, both Black and brown, and as a matter of fact all communities,” Jackson said. “The short answer is I look forward to working with them.”
Jackson says he is the right candidate to move GRPD and the city forward.
“To just make an improvement in the neighborhoods, make an improvement in the agency itself, make an improvement administratively,” Jackson said.
Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker says he will focus on building relationships in the community and will be as transparent as possible.
“This is a critical period of time when crime is high, and the community recognizes they need law enforcement,” Blocker said. “Now it’s just as important that law enforcement recognize that they can’t do it without the community.”
Blocker says he will grow programs that help officers connect people with mental health treatment and other services.
“The officer that shows up that has the capability and the training and the depth and understanding that the problem is maybe beyond them but they know how to get the right people there,” Blocker said.
Chicago Police Commander Eric Winstrom is also an attorney. He says he will take a data driven approach to reducing crime and will make sure officers are appreciated for creating positive engagement with the community.
“I’ve heard it said before that every police officer should be a community policing officer and it really is true, every police officer should spend their time everyday thinking is what I’m doing having the most positive impact on the community as I can,” Winstrom said.
In his current position, Winstrom runs a detective division in the Chicago Police Department supervising 200 employees, which include 40 homicide detectives. He says he would bring a wealth of experience to GRPD.
“We’re using data in understand what’s driving violence in the community to help overcome those challenges and whether that’s with the community engagement or whether it’s directed deployment or the use of technology,” Winstrom said.
You can submit your thoughts on the candidates to the city manager through Wednesday by using the online survey.
City Manager Mark Washington will join Digital Anchor Luke Laster on the live desk at 9:30 a.m. Friday to talk more about the candidates. That discussion will be streamed live on WOODTV.com.
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