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Grand Rapids Police Chief to retire in February

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The City of Grand Rapids will soon be looking for a new police chief.

Kevin Belk has led the Grand Rapids Police Department for the last six years, but he's spent 34 years moving up through the ranks of the department.

Belk says it wasn't an easy decision, but he says it's something he's been considering for the past few years.

Right now, he says crime is down 30 percent over his tenure as chief, and they're finally hiring new officers, so he feels like he's leaving the department in a good place.

"I've been with the dept for 34 years, so that's longer than most; there's no one here that's been longer than I," Chief Belk said Wednesday.

Looking back over Belk's tenure as chief, the Grand Rapids City Manager says his legacy will be in the way he managed the department.

"He has done an incredibly good job, really a skillful job of achieving greater outcomes with a much smaller budget and that takes a special talent," said City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

"I think what I'm proud of is the fact that despite the fact that we've had to shrink, we've been able to become more efficient, we've been able to remain committed to our core mission, and that's reducing crime," Belk said.

While there's a lot to be proud of, Belk has had his share of challenges as well.

Days like July 7th 2011, when Roderick Dantzler murdered 7 people in the city and then held hostages for hours.

"Very difficult day for the department for the community," Belk said of the murders. "I mean, some devastating things occurred here--things you could just never imagine are going to occur in our community."

But Belk says it's his team that deserves the credit.

"The captains and the lieutenants of this department are great people, and I would be very pleased to see one of them succeed me in this job," he said.

As for what he'll do next, he's not so sure.

"Obviously (I'm) still fairly young and in good health, so I'll certainly have an interest in looking at other opportunities that may present themselves," he said.

As to whether or not he would consider another job in law enforcement, he responds: "I don't know that I'm focusing on that; there's a lot of opportunities, but I've not closed the door on any possibility."

Belk is officially done on February 7, but he says he will serve in an interim capacity until a new police chief is hired.