Grand Rapids names new police chief

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Eric Winstrom. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The city of Grand Rapids named Eric Winstrom its next police chief.

The city on Tuesday, Feb. 2, announced Winstrom, a Chicago Police Department (CPD) commander, will lead the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) beginning March 7.  Winstrom succeeds former police chief Eric Payne who will retire on March 4.

“The city is fortunate to hire someone as qualified and talented as Eric Winstrom to serve as our next police chief who is a certified law enforcement officer and attorney,” said City Manager Mark Washington. “I look forward to working with him to continue to advance policing and to continue our journey to strengthen trust between the community and our police department.”

The new police chief was selected after a national search that garnered interest from senior law enforcement professionals from across the country and included an interview process with a community engagement period.

Three finalists whose qualities best matched those outlined in a community-informed profile participated in a series of six interview panels. A public forum, which also included 50 community members, was viewed more than 4,100 times online, and the public continued to submit feedback on the candidates.

In addition to his personal interviews and interactions with the candidates, Washington said he also carefully considered the opinions gathered from the community interview panels, as well as the 600-plus comments from participants who completed the community survey before making his final decision.

Washington said he also received favorable feedback from representatives from CPD and community leaders about Winstrom’s ability to effectively lead officers.

“He was frequently praised for going above expectations and often working unceasingly for justice and improving community,” Washington said.

Winstrom said the success he had as a commander in Chicago came through working to build relationships with individuals and community groups who backed and challenged the department and looks forward to bringing the approach to Grand Rapids.

“By talking together and discussing our differences and points of view, we can come away with a better understanding of how our actions and attitudes can affect those around us, and how we can all make positive changes,” he said. “As chief, I will embrace opportunities to have open, honest communication with all stakeholders in Grand Rapids.”

Winstrom served CPD for more than 20 years in various patrol, tactical, investigative and administrative positions. He previously served as an executive on the CPD leadership team and also led the Area 5 Detective Division on Chicago’s northwest side, where he oversaw 200 staff, including 40 homicide detectives.

Previous assignments include teaching at the Chicago Police Academy, heading CPD’s citywide child sex crimes investigation unit, serving as a supervising attorney in the legal affairs division, assisting in the creation of the office of reform management, overseeing policy and procedure for the department and serving as captain of the 400-person Ninth District Station.

Winstrom is a member of the Illinois Bar Association and is a court-recognized expert on police policy, use of force, criminal investigations and the Fourth Amendment. He earned his bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from Rutgers University and a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School.

“I have a great appreciation for Grand Rapids. My wife, my 8- and 10-year-olds and I are excited about relocating to West Michigan,” Winstrom said.

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