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Grand Rapids police chief to retire

Grand Rapids' new police chief, Eric Payne.
City of Grand Rapids
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Grand Rapids police chief Eric Payne plans to retire next year, after two years of leading the department.

Payne first joined GRPD in 1987. He took over as the department’s first Black police chief in the summer of 2019, promising there would be changes.By 2020, the calls for change amplified nationwide after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the killing of Breonna Taylor. On May 30 last year, a daytime peaceful protest against police in Grand Rapids gave way to a night of mayhem and looting downtown.

The city, and Payne, promised reforms at the department.

Payne announced a new strategic plan for GRPD last year, and converted the department to a neighborhood-based police model.

“I came into the job with an idea of what I wanted to do,” Payne said, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the city. “Community-policing, enhancing training and accountability measures on diversity and inclusion, ensuring we were a values-based organization that matched those of the people we serve, in many ways I was already taking the department in this direction before the events of last year.”

But the changes at the department have not quelled the calls to defund police in Grand Rapids. Activists continue to show up to city commission meetings, including at last week’s meeting.

“You should all be ashamed,” said Aly Bates, an organizer with the group Justice for Black Lives, who mentioned Payne specifically. “Telling us you support us expressing our first amendment rights, and trying to silence us is disgusting and it’s gaslighting.

The city says Payne plans to retire in early 2022.

City manager Mark Washington says he will outline a process for finding Payne’s replacement in the coming months.

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