Grand Rapids Police Department hires first chief of staff

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Karianne Thomas Courtesy Grand Rapids Police Department

The Grand Rapids Police Department hired Karianne Thomas as the department’s first chief of staff.

Thomas comes to the GRPD with comprehensive public safety fiscal management experience, including eight years in the leadership of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. She will start June 28.

“Karianne Thomas brings a high level of professional achievement and an experienced perspective that will benefit the department and the community,” GRPD Chief Eric Payne said. “Her hiring represents another milestone in the efforts to transform policing in Grand Rapids.”

The chief of staff position was created as part of the GRPD Strategic Plan. Thomas’ primary responsibility will be the formulation and administration of the GRPD budget. Additionally, she will support the department’s community engagement, continuous improvement and change management initiatives.

“Karianne will be an asset in helping us continue to improve the GRPD,” Payne said. “Her demonstrated commitment to building relationships, fiscal management and transparency makes her the ideal person to help us continue our mission to be a more effective, inclusive and trusted police department.

Thomas’ professional accomplishments include:

  • Implementation of a strategic plan for public safety that directly supported the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 goals of shared prosperity, safe community, strength through diversity and good governance.
  • The formulation and administration of multimillion-dollar departmental budgets.
  • Forging lasting and meaningful relationships with multiple stakeholders, including neighborhood associations, community leaders and faith-based organizations.
  • Creating the Kalamazoo Strategic Operations Center, which uses data for resource deployment, staffing, investigations and local emergency management.
  • Managing the Office of Professional Standards, including internal and external complaint investigations.
  • Directly managing the recruitment and hiring of diverse, forward-thinking and community-focused personnel.

“I look forward to joining the amazing team at GRPD and helping them continue the implementation of the strategic plan,” Thomas said.

Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in public law and government from Eastern Michigan University and later graduated from Ferris State University with a master’s degree in criminal justice administration in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at Ferris State.

Thomas was appointed to serve on the Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards by former Gov. Rick Snyder and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. She also has served on the boards of the Local Initiatives Support Coalition and the National Network for Safe Communities/Group Violence Intervention.

Her volunteer work includes Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the mentor program with Southwest Michigan First. She has been recognized with several community awards and professional honors.

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