Study recommends more civilian staff, not more officers, for Grand Rapids police department – Michigan Radio

Study recommends more civilian staff, not more officers, for Grand Rapids police department - Michigan Radio
City considers more GRPD staff; maybe not officers
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City Manager Mark Washington said his FY 2020 budget proposal will include additional funding for the police department to address staffing, though he hasn't determined specifics as of Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Cory Morse | MLive file photo)

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — City Manager Mark Washington said there will be funding for additional staffing for the Grand Rapids Police Department in his Fiscal Year 2020 proposal to the city commission.

Interim chief, city leaders react to GRPD staffing study

What he hasnt determined is what form — sworn or non-sworn personnel — that proposed increase will take.

Washington will balance the results of a nearly $100,000 police staffing and deployment study by a consulting firm, Hillard Heintze, with a request from Interim Police Chief David Kiddle for an additional 10 community policing specialists to work night and weekend shifts.

The interim chiefs request follows that of his predecessor, former chief David Rahinsky, who made the same request in each of the last four budget cycles to no avail.

But the chiefs request doesnt exactly align with Hillard Heintzes study, which determined that the police department has sufficient sworn staffing levels, but lacks enough non-sworn civilian personnel, who could alleviate officers of some non-policing responsibilities.

We were expecting recommendations for more sworn officers; thats been the conversation for the past few budgets, Washington said. What is not surprising is that they recognize the increase for staffing. But what was surprising was the type of staffing they recommended, more non-sworn than sworn.

Obviously theres a need for staffing and so there will be, in my budget recommendation, a staffing increase for the police department. Its the type of staffing that well need to be very deliberate about.

The study by Hillard Heintze determined that limited administrative support contributes to the pressures felt by officers and managers within the Grand Rapids Police Department.

During his first read-through, Kiddle said there wasnt anything he necessarily disagreed with in the report. He said department leadership will look at the report with an open mind in the coming weeks.

Well take a deep dive, take a look at their opinions and suggestions and go from there,” Kiddle said. “Overall its very thorough and theres a lot of things to look at.

Representatives of Hillard Heintze presented the findings of their 57-page report Tuesday, April 9, during the city commissions committee of the whole meeting. No actions were taken by the commission. Instead, they asked questions about the results and study process.

The report outlined perceived inefficiencies within the department and areas in which resources arent appropriately allocated. One example is the detective unit, where city officials have in the past voiced concerns that investigators are overworked.

In many cases, the study found that sworn officers too often handle administrative responsibilities that could be picked up by civilian staff, thus freeing officers up for more non-enforcement time.

Non-sworn staff make up 9 percent of the police department — a decline from staffing levels in the early 2000s. The report says the department should have closer to 23 percent non-sworn staff.

Capt. Mike Maycroft, who represents the command staff union, said the department has known for years that it lacks sufficient civilian personnel.

We agree with a lot of whats in this (report), Maycroft said. “This pointed out a lot of inefficiencies which we agree with and a lot of that is due to the fiscal issues that have plagued the city … Weve known for years weve been lacking civilian support staff.

We also recognize that the city, the civilians and the neighborhood associations want more community policing specialists as well.

In 2018, Grand Rapids police responded to 60,185 calls for service, or about six calls per officer, per shift. Of those calls, 4,050 were alarm calls, 3,657 were parking violations, and 3,215 were property damage traffic crashes.

Alex Weiss, senior adviser of law enforcement for Hillard Heintze, said those numbers could be greatly reduced if the department followed the lead of other cities and shifted those responsibilities to other groups like the alarm service providers and city parking enforcement, respectively. Another suggestion was allowing drivers who are involved in crashes with no injuries and no severe vehicle damage to file police reports online or at the police station rather than waiting for an officer to come out and take a report.

On average, the study found that Grand Rapids police officers have a good response time to priority-one calls (91 seconds), but spend an above average amount of time (50 minutes) on scene of calls for service.

Chief Kiddle said further review of the report is required, as well as broader discussions with the city commission and the community in regards to services provided by the department.

We do pride ourselves on being a full service department and some of the suggestions in the report do suggest we cut some of those services so thats going to need a broader conversation,” Kiddle said.

Hillard Heintze also broke down the experience levels of the police departments sworn personnel to show the lack of officers who have served the department five to nine years. The department has 127 officers with 20 or more years with the department, compared to 88 with less than five years and 12 with five to nine years.

With 43 percent of the department having sufficient years of service to retire, the study warns of the need to increase leadership development for the mid-range development group.

You have a big issue here, said Debra Kirby, project director for the consulting firm. Your recruiting here is good practice but you have a chunk in the middle that you really need to work on in regards to leadership development.

Most potential changes that could come as a result of the staffing and deployment study will likely be made under the leadership of the departments next police chief. Washington said he expects to have them in place this summer.

Following Tuesdays morning commission meetings, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said she was surprised by a number of findings in the report. Overall, she called it very comprehensive and said it highlighted areas where the department can make improvements to be more efficient.

The report was very insightful; it looked at overall organization and deployment, efficiencies and best practices and I think they highlighted some areas that I believe really support our officers and freeing up their time to do what they want to do as police officers, Bliss said.

The city commission will get its first look at the city managers proposed FY 2020 budget on Tuesday, April 23 during the morning city commission meeting.

Posted in Grand Rapids