Grand Rapids to decrease police budget by about $400,000

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Grand Rapids city officials last week provided an update on police reform efforts and recommended additional action steps.

The new initiatives follow a series of operational changes to improve policing in Grand Rapids announced last month.

The following action steps were proposed:

  • Create a civilian chief of staff position to assist the police chief in administration, strategic direction and innovation — to be funded by the current police department budget
  • Create a civilian public information officer in the police chief’s office — to be grant funded initially
  • Create a position in the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability — to be funded by the current police department budget

These actions and the required budget amendments would reduce the police department’s budget by $396,012 and would reinvest that money in community-based efforts, including oversight, communications and engagement.

City Manager Mark Washington noted the police department’s budget was decreased by $1.1 million in the fiscal plan approved by the city commission in late May. The fiscal year began July 1. He said he was not comfortable making additional budget cuts beyond the proposed $396,012 reduction.

The recommended action takes the total fiscal year 2021 police budget reduction to nearly $1.5 million and equates to 63% of the department’s overtime budget or roughly 15 police officers.

“It is unusual for me to recommend budget amendments involving personnel so soon after the start of a fiscal year, particularly amid uncertainties around economic performance,” Washington said. “However, due to the urgency of this police reform work, these budget amendments are needed now to support these three additional staffing positions.”

The police department also plans to launch an online police reform metric dashboard Aug. 11. Initial metrics will include:

  • Number of police beats covered 24/7, 365 days a year
  • Percentage of residents who feel safe
  • Number of community events the police department participates in and the number of sworn and nonsworn personnel who participate
  • Crime statistics
  • Officer and nonsworn staffing numbers
  • Demographics for existing police personnel, new hires and turnover

More data and disaggregation by demographics will be added to the dashboard over time.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne outlined the police department’s budget, which is $55,145,968 in the current fiscal year — or 38.6% of the city’s overall general operating fund. At its high point in FY2010, the department’s budget was 42.3% of the general operating fund.

Payne said 80% of the police department’s general fund budget is for staffing. In 2006, the total general operating fund for sworn and civilian staffing was 369 full-time employees. In the current fiscal year, it totals 327 — an 11% decrease.

“Our department has strategically evolved in response to reduced staffing resources through such innovations as technology, policy and practice,” Payne said. “Public safety outcomes can be measured in several ways, including historical crime data.”

Payne added crime in Grand Rapids declined significantly since 2006. Overall, Part I crimes — murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson — are down 45%.

Part II crimes — simple assaults, forgery/counterfeiting, embezzlement/fraud, receiving stolen property, weapon violations, prostitution, sex crimes, crimes against family/child, narcotic drug laws, liquor laws, drunkenness, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, gambling, driving under the influence — are down 23%.

“We have accomplished these public safety outcomes with fewer sworn officers,” Payne said. “This is expected to continue as we implement the staffing study recommendations and additional focus is placed on civilian positions within the department. One concept under consideration is to build on the work of the victim service coordinator by securing the availability of on-call mental health response services every day of the week to support community members and the department.”

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