Inside Track, Government, and Law

Inside Track: Rahinsky is a Type A executive in uniform

The new Grand Rapids police chief says the job has many similarities to managing a business.

August 29, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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GRPD Rahinsky
David Rahinsky says local businesses want the same thing the GRPD wants: walkable, safe streets, and a city free of blight. Photo by Michael Buck

David Rahinsky is not one of those executives who doesn’t always answer his phone.

“I answer my phone 24/7,” he said — even when he’s taking a shower.

“I’m as Type A as you can get,” he admits.

Rahinsky is the new top cop in the city of Grand Rapids, and he always answers his phone for the same reason other police chiefs do: If one of his officers is hurt or killed in the line of duty, he needs to know ASAP. That, he said, is any chief’s worst fear.

But there is a lot a Grand Rapids police chief deals with during the work day that isn’t far removed from managing a company with lots of employees.

“We’ve got a $50 million budget and 400 personnel,” he said. 

 

David M. Rahinsky
Organization:
Grand Rapids Police Department
Position: Chief
Age: 48
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Residence: Grand Rapids
Family: Wife, Suzanne; sons Lee, 26, and Ryan, 21; and daughter Rachel, 19.
Business/Community Involvement: Kiwanis, Rotary, Boy Scouts of America, and others.
Biggest Career Break: Being born into a police family.

 

One might add that every person in town is a stockholder of sorts — and they don’t hesitate to speak up if they don’t think the “company” is performing well.

Hiring and human resource management, technology investment and training, customer service — “those are issues we deal with every day,” said Rahinsky.

Customer service, in particular, makes police administration look more like a business today. Twenty-five years ago, he said, police would have considered the customer service concept “a novelty,” but now virtually all U.S. law enforcement agencies are conscious of their customer relations image.

Rahinsky, a 48-year-old native of Philadelphia, was selected by the Grand Rapids city government in June after a nationwide search for a new chief. He started in early July, coming from his previous job as chief of police in Franklin, Tenn., a 41-square-mile city of more than 70,000.

Growing up in a “police family” led directly to his career. His father was a police chief and a mentor to him, a man “who had … accomplished everything I hoped to achieve.”

One of Rahinsky’s brothers is a retired FBI agent and his sister was a prosecuting attorney.

“I was blessed in being handed a very clear roadmap. I knew what I had to achieve,” he said.

He remembers reading in one of his father’s police administration publications about a job opening for police chief. It required an extensive array of experience as well as extensive education, and he wondered how anybody would manage to accomplish all of that.

His Type A personality evidently helped. Eventually, he earned a Master of Science, a bachelor’s degree in history and studied at the FBI National Academy, plus the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville, Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston, and more.

Rahinsky loves history, and reading nonfiction — particularly, history — is a major pastime. He loves to point out that he was born at Penn Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, the nation’s first hospital, established with the help of Benjamin Franklin. There is a small museum at the hospital, and Rahinsky said when his three kids were little, “I dragged them into the museum.”

After high school in Philadelphia, he attended West Chester University of Pennsylvania for one year, and then Temple University for a year. At that point he landed his first job in law enforcement with the Philadelphia Transit Authority, which sent him as a new recruit to the Philadelphia Police Academy. He worked for the transit police from 1987 to 1989, at which point he landed a job as a deputy in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Broward County has a population of more than 1.7 million, and the sheriff’s office is the largest fully accredited sheriff’s office in the nation.

In Broward County, he began working as a patrol deputy and then as a detective until 1995, when he was promoted to supervisor in charge of patrol and criminal investigations. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1999 and assigned to Pompano Beach.

In his free time, Rahinsky worked on getting his bachelor’s degree at Florida Atlantic University and his master’s at Florida State, along with taking special courses in crime fighting and police administration.

In 2000, he was promoted again to executive officer/executive lieutenant in command at the city of Dania Beach, where he was in charge of 64 deputies and a budget of $5.7 million. In 2001, he was promoted to police chief of Pembroke Park.

Rahinsky’s last promotion at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was in 2003, to chief of Oakland Park, which had a population of approximately 50,000. He had more than 100 employees and an annual budget of more than $10 million.

Rahinsky experienced adrenaline-charged moments as an officer on patrol, although he never fired his weapon in the line of duty. Once a suspect jumped out of an apartment and stuck his gun between Rahinsky’s eyes; another time, the female in a domestic dispute pulled a gun on him.

He was the chief of Oakland Park until 2006, when he accepted the job of deputy chief of police in Franklin, Tenn. By then, Rahinsky’s oldest son had started college, and he said that with two younger kids coming up, he and his wife, Suzanne, decided to look for “a more family-centered place” to live. More than 90 candidates applied for the opening. Franklin is one of the principal cities of the Nashville Metropolitan Area.

In 2010, Rahinsky was named assistant chief in Franklin and then chief in 2011.

Rahinsky said business in Grand Rapids wants the same thing the GRPD wants: walkable, safe streets, and a city free of blight. That reduces crime, and less crime makes it easier for business to recruit and retain well educated, top-notch employees.

Crime also costs business money: Rahinsky noted that it drives up insurance premiums for every company in the area.

“I want the same thing in every community in the city,” he added, not just in the downtown area. “Our objective is to be the safest city of our size in the country.”

Grand Rapids is the 123rd largest American city, so he has a data analyst studying statistics on every city from the 100th to the 150th largest “to see where we sit.” The variables will help identify “what we need to do to get there.”

He urges businesses to work with the local police force. For example, when a company is planning to build or undertake an extensive renovation, it can ask the GRPD to take a look at those plans for recommendations on ways to make the site safer for employees and the community. Those aspects include lighting, landscaping that might conceal an individual from passing patrol cars, public access to the property, and at a large business complex, designated safe rooms where employees can take shelter if there is a threat, ranging from a gunman to a tornado.

Rahinsky said one of the first tasks a new chief should undertake is a review of seized assets to make sure everything jibes with the records.

Over the years, law enforcement agencies involved in drug busts seize large amounts of cash and valuable property such as vehicles. The courts often award the seized cash and property to the departments involved in a successful prosecution. The assets can then be used by the department for specific types of non-recurring expenses, typically special training of officers. Electronic advances have changed that landscape, however. Rahinsky said criminal organizations now tend to electronically transfer large payments, which are largely beyond the reach of seizure.

But computerized data also helps police departments to be more effective.

“We’ve learned as a profession to work much smarter,” he said. 

Analysis of electronic data is used to study crime trends to indicate precisely where it happens and why. Departments do “hot spot” mapping, for example, which “is not something that was done routinely just six or seven years ago,” he said.

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