By Emilye Martin
Nineteen Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers up for retirement in the next three years will help facilitate the transition by the department to new policing methods and approaches — including how WMU parties are managed.
Twenty officers have retired in the past two years, opening the department to a new and younger generation of officers. This March, it was announced that the KDPS is looking to hire around 40 new officers in the coming year. The 2017 budget allowed the department to hire 17 full time officers this year.
The turnover is helping the department transition into a new age of policing. The changes include gear such as body cameras and an intensive cross-training program that will help officers to respond to more diverse situations.
“The body cameras are a result of the evolution of technology and the fact that we’ve chosen to implement them shows how transparent we are as a department and how we have nothing to hide from the community,” KDPS Police Chief Jeff Hadley said.
KDPS is one of the largest departments of its kind, in which all officers are all trained to respond to any type of emergency call that may come through.
Western Michigan University senior and resident of Kendall Village townhomes Lindsay Hubbard has been impressed with the KDPS service. “We’ve had a few issues with domestic violence next door to us and even though [my roommates and I] were not involved, the responding officers have always come over and checked on us to make sure we felt safe in our home,” she said.
KDPS is hiring and training officers in small batches in order to better integrate them with the culture of the department and with the city of Kalamazoo and WMU.
“It’s nice seeing younger police patrolling especially in a college town,” said Autumn Northcutt, a junior at WMU. “They understand the dynamic and the fact that we’re just trying to have fun. They are able to do their job, but not be too strict at the same time.”
This is part of a new tactic the department has been trying. It does what it can to be informed about big parties and go out to the places before they get too crowded. In doing this, officers can talk to the party host and let them know what they need to do in order for their party to not be a hazard.
“It’s proven a good way for parties to kind of police themselves. If everyone knows what they need to do, they can keep each other in line and prevent police from showing up and shutting things down,” Hadley said.
The department has recently hired several young officers and are looking to hire more.
“They’re young, and they’re going to make some mistakes, but we’re doing our best to get them conditioned to the culture,” Hadley said.
The KDPS swore in 11 new officers at the city commission meeting on Oct. 2.