Grand Rapids picks a Chicago police commander as its next chief

Eric Winstrom was at the center of a recent dispute with the Cook County state’s attorney over charging a suspect in the high-profile shooting death of 7-year-old Serenity Broughton.

SHARE Grand Rapids picks a Chicago police commander as its next chief

The next police chief in Michigan’s second-largest city is coming from Chicago.

Eric Winstrom, a commander in the Chicago Police Department, has been hired in Grand Rapids, City Manager Mark Washington announced Tuesday. Winstrom, who has a law degree, follows Eric Payne who is retiring Friday.

Washington said he considered input from community interview panels and more than 600 comments from people who completed a survey.

Winstrom has been a Chicago officer for more than 20 years and is considered an expert on the use of force and the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches, Grand Rapids said in a written statement. 

“This city is serious about getting policing right and for somebody in police leadership, this is something I want to be a part of,” Winstrom was quoted as saying. 

Winstrom’s exit comes amid a large exodus from Chicago’s demoralized police force. Similar staffing woes have been felt by police departments across the country that are facing a sharp increase in retirements and difficulty in recruiting to fill vacancies.

In Chicago, there were about 13,000 sworn officers at the beginning of 2021. That number has fallen to about 11,900.

About 720 Chicago cops retired last year compared to 560 in 2020, 475 in 2019 and 339 in 2018. More than 175 other officers resigned last year without full retirement benefits, or transferred to other police departments.

Last month, the Sun-Times reported that other departments are actively luring Chicago cops to the suburbs and warmer locales, like Florida and Texas. Last September, Winstrom was named a finalist for police chief in Mesquite, Texas.

Winstrom was at the center of a recent dispute between police officials and Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx’s office over whether to charge a suspect in a high-profile shooting that left 7-year-old Serenity Broughton dead and her younger sister wounded.

After Foxx’s office rejected charges against an alleged gunman, Winstrom went to a judge to circumvent prosecutors.

The extraordinary chain of events demonstrated the tenuous relationship between Foxx’s office and the police department, though the suspect, 24-year-old Aireon Luster, was ultimately hit with the same charges.

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