Grand Rapids Community Meets Future Chief of Police – Grand Valley Lanthorn

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In August of last year, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne announced his intention to retire in early 2022.

With the start of the new year, three candidates were announced to be vying for the position of Grand Rapids Police Chief. These candidates include Jim Blocker, Jutiki Jackson and Eric Winstrom.

On January 19, a community forum was held in the City Hall Commission Chambers, where members of the Grand Rapids community gathered to meet and ask questions of the candidates.

Dozens of attendees showed up to the forum, with even more engagement on Grand Rapids’ YouTube and Facebook live streams.

The main focus of the evening was to find out how the candidates would use the position to help restore the Grand Rapids Police Department’s (GRPD) connection to the Grand Rapids community.

Candidate Jim Blocker, a former resident of Grand Rapids, said he would leave his current position in Battle Creek to revitalize the GRPD with an emphasis on community participation and engagement.

“It’s a pivotal moment, a real pivotal point,” Blocker said. “We’ve moved from defunding the police to reimbursing the police, but the key here is the community is going to demand that we do it differently.”

Blocker served 25 years with the Battle Creek Police Department (BCPD) in a variety of positions including patrol officer, community police officer, SWAT team member, detective, and general manager.

He is currently the 18th Chief of Police for the BCPD and holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, serving in the Michigan Army National Guard. He is currently assigned as Commander of the 210th Military Police Battalion.

He served multiple tours, earning two Bronze Stars, two Army Medals of Honor, three Army Medals of Honor, the NATO Ribbon, and the Combat Action Badge.

Candidate Jutiki Jackson opened his portion of the evening by addressing a fatal shooting he was involved in as an officer in 1997, before discussing his hope for a future in Grand Rapids.

Jackson said while fighting with a suspicious man his gun discharged, killing him. It was deemed accidental.

“(It was) one of the worst days, one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had,” Jackson said. “Men and women join the police service to save lives, to help people, to get involved in the community, to solve community problems. Unfortunately, the shooting happened, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about and it’s been with me, for 24 years.

He served 26 years with the Milwaukee Police Department, where he spent 10 years as an officer before being promoted to sergeant, lieutenant and then captain as commander of the 7th District.

He was then promoted to Inspector in 2016 and secured a position with the Chief of Police’s Executive Command Team, where he oversaw all after-hours operations, including weekends and holidays.

Jackson then moved into the administration office, then the patrol office, before finally moving into the private sector. Jackson provided executive oversight to 1,400 members at seven district stations, the Neighborhood Task Force, and the Community Outreach Office.

Candidate Eric Winstrom said his goal for Grand Rapids is to improve policing for both the community and officers.

Winstrom said he plans to achieve this by improving the recruiting process and overall department morale.

“You want to make the police department a great place to work for everyone,” Winstrom said. “If you have a reputation in Grand Rapids of ‘It’s a police department that embraces diversity, it pays its living well, and it treats officers well,’ you won’t have the same challenges as elsewhere.”

Winstrom served 20 years with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in a variety of capacities, including patrol, investigative, tactical, and administrative positions. He currently holds a leadership position on the CPD leadership team and leads the detective division of Area 5, which covers one-fifth of the city of Chicago.

Winstrom previously served as a teacher at the Chicago Police Academy, leading the CPD’s Child Sex Crimes Investigation Unit and helping to establish the Office of Reform Management. He was station captain of the 9th district.

The final decision on who will become the next Grand Rapids Police Chief ultimately rests on the shoulders of Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington.

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