Grand Rapids Police Department implements neighborhood policing model

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The Grand Rapids Police Department’s new neighborhood-based policing model increases patrol staffing by redeploying officers previously assigned as community policing specialists. Courtesy Grand Rapids Police Department

Grand Rapids Police officers are now assigned to specific neighborhoods across the city to build stronger relationships with residents and business owners.

The Grand Rapids Police Department’s (GRPD) new neighborhood-based policing model increases patrol staffing by redeploying officers previously assigned as community policing specialists.

The GRPD was not able to perform traditional community policing with available resources; therefore, the agency devised an innovative approach to provide traditional and community policing services to each neighborhood based on the needs and desires expressed by stakeholders.

Police Chief Eric Payne told the Grand Rapids Public Safety Committee the new deployment strategy allows an officer to focus on a specific neighborhood, make significant partnerships and relationships and problem solve with stakeholders on many issues, including noncriminal and quality of life.

“The officer will become part of the neighborhood and be vested in its success, as well as be a resource for the residents and businesses,” Payne said. “Officers will be able to work directly with those in the neighborhood, find solutions to significant issues and be a helpful advocate. This approach also will allow us to encourage young people in the neighborhoods to consider a future career in law enforcement as we look to recruit our next generation of GRPD officers.”

The move to the new policing philosophy was first identified by the department as a way to provide both traditional and community policing services with available resources. Through many listening sessions, the city also heard residents expressed a desire to see their community service officers more often and engaged in more nonenforcement, positive contacts.

The new neighborhood policing model also could allow an assigned officer to more closely adapt and serve the unique needs and wants of each neighborhood.

“Through strategies and action steps, such as the move to neighborhood policing model, we will be a more effective, inclusive and efficient police department,” said GRPD Deputy Chief Kristen Rogers, who oversees the development and implementation of the department’s strategic plan. “We will advance public safety while earning the trust and pride of those we serve and those who serve.”

When Payne accepted his appointment to chief, he pledged to examine the neighborhood approach, as long as staffing levels allowed the department to make that commitment. With staffing levels much less than the national average of 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents — Grand Rapids has less than 1.5 officers per 1,000 — this was a challenging undertaking.

The department ultimately was able to succeed in providing 124 officers of the 132 required to each neighborhood in the city, 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. As of Sunday, officers are covering 92% of beats across all service areas.

“I’m really excited to serve the Heartside neighborhood,” Officer Patrick Martin said. “This new beat will allow me to spend more time developing relationships with residents by walking the neighborhood, visiting businesses, churches, parks and other public spaces.”

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