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NAACP and public point out issues on chief candidates as public comment deadline draws closer

Posted at 12:52 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 12:52:23-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids NAACP asked the city manager to "start the search for the new police chief over again."

The city has named three finalists to fill current Chief Eric Payne's position when he retires this year. Those three men have all visited and spoken to community members during a forum in Grand Rapids last week.

Mark Washington says he doesn't agree with the NAACP's conclusion.

Washington added he'd make sure that the issues pointed out by the NAACP and other community feedback are vetted with any selected candidate before a final job offer.

There were strong words from the public towards Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington, who holds the final say on who becomes the city's top cop.

"We all know Mark Washington has made up his mind already long before the forum was offered to give the delusion that we have democracy in this city," Andra Loucks said during her three-minute public comment during the city commission meeting Tuesday.

Battle Creek Chief of Police Jim Blocker, retired Milwaukee Police Inspector Jutiki Jackson, and Chicago Police Commander Eric Winstrom are the city's top three finalists for the job.

READ MORE: Grand Rapids names final candidates for next police chief

"We want to see the process reset, and if not reset, at least, to slow down the current process, and allow NAACP to meet with each individual candidate, and ask poignant questions," NAACP Grand Rapids Special Advisor Public Safety Carlton Mayers told FOX 17.

The candidates' history and comments during the first public forum are drawing strong public criticism.

Jackson, the only person of color, was involved in a deadly shooting while on the force back in 1997.

The NAACP also takes issue with what they say is Blocker's lack of knowledge about the city's CURE Violence program and Winstrom's encouragement of ShotSpotter, which is a gunfire-detection system.

"So we right now have not seen any of the candidates to have everything that we're looking for, or even close to it," Mayers said.

The city manager declined an interview with FOX 17 Tuesday, but he did send a statement that reads in part:

"This police chief hiring process is one of the most transparent and community-engaged recruitments when compared to the other 1,600 employees in our workforce and is nearly identical to the process we used when selecting Chief Payne."

Washington voiced a similar comment during Tuesday night's city commission meeting.

"We do offer a very transparent process both through recruitment and through the selection to the degree as possible. As we still have to respect some of the candidates' rights as they are searching for a job," Washington said.

"If they don't restart the search, NAACP will continue to hold not only the city accountable but also the new police chief, whoever that is that selected accountable," Mayers said.

Meanwhile, public comment on the candidates is still open with the city until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

READ MORE: NAACP asks city of Grand Rapids to restart search for next police chief

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