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Community updates: Friday, Aug. 6

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne to retire next year; Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent ISD recommending face coverings for fall start of school.
Eric Payne, Grand Rapids Police Chief since 2019.

Eric Payne, Grand Rapids Police Chief since 2019. /City of Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne to retire next year

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne will be retiring in early 2022, he publicly announced on Tuesday. His retirement comes after more than three decades with the department and assuming duties as its chief in 2019.

Payne cited more time with his family and progress on his position goals within the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) as reasons for retirement. He also reiterated his intention for his assignment to last no longer than five years.

"When I took this position, I was clear with the community, the city manager, and – most importantly – my family, I had a clear set of goals I wanted to accomplish, but that this was going to be a three-to-five-year assignment," Payne said in a Tuesday statement.

According to Payne, these goals included transforming public safety in Grand Rapids by focusing on community relationships, transparency, staffing, and training. They manifested through his department instituting several reforms such as a neighborhood policing model, use of force procedure reform based on the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, and the GRPD participating in the city’s first co-response Homeless Outreach Team effort.

"I came into the job with an idea of what I wanted to do," Payne continued. "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."

Payne informed City Manager Mark Washington of his retirement plans prior to his public announcement, according to the City of Grand Rapids. Washington, in a statement, said he believes Payne has positioned the GRPD and city well heading into the future. He also noted that a process for filling the police chief position will be announced in the coming months.

City police reform efforts instituted during Payne’s tenure are presented in the GRPD’s 2021-23 Strategic Plan.


Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent ISD recommending face coverings for fall start of school

Face coverings will not be required this fall for students of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) and Kent ISD, the districts announced Thursday. Both provided public statements on their use in response to new CDC recommendations around the COVID-19 Delta variant.

While not required, GRPS and Kent ISD are both strongly recommending face covering use indoors for students, staff, and visitors to their schools, regardless of vaccination status. The recommendations are part of broader pandemic-related guidelines for the start of the 2021-22 school year, with both districts returning to 100 percent in-person learning.

Among other guidelines for GRPS are the encouragement of all unvaccinated students and staff who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Families and staff will also continue to be notified if they or their student have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person. Quarantine will only be required if unvaccinated students or staff live with a person testing positive or if there is an outbreak in a school.

"This may be subject to change should the district receive new guidance or public health orders from the CDC, MDHHS, and/or KCHD," GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby said of the district’s guidelines. "Please look for additional updates and communications as we get closer to the start of school."

Kent ISD is likewise recommending vaccination for those who are eligible. Currently, federally authorized vaccines for the virus are for people age 12 and older.

"Please understand these are recommendations, which ask all to take appropriate precautions to protect the safety of students and staff within our schools," Kent ISD announced in a statement. "They are not public health orders, which we would be required to enforce."

"While districts strongly encourage following the recommendations, parents may choose what they feel is best for their child," it continued.

The CDC currently requires the use of face coverings for all school bus drivers and passengers, as part of a broader transportation mandate.

More details about GRPS and Kent ISD’s pandemic-related guidelines for the upcoming school year are available on their websites.


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