BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Calling him “the right leader at the right time,” the city manager on Monday announced that Shannon Bagley has been promoted to chief of the Battle Creek Police Department.

Shannon Bagley had been serving in the role on an interim basis since January when Jim Blocker retired after 26 years on the force. Bagley now takes over on a permanent basis.

“Everything I have met that works here absolutely cares about this place – it made it feel like a second home to me,” Bagley said at the Monday news conference at City Hall announcing his promotion.

The new police chief said his primary goal and everything he will roll out moving forward will be focused on building the police department’s relationship with the community.

“You can’t ignore the last several years of the estranged relationship between law enforcement and communities, not just here but all over the country,” Bagley said. “It’s incumbent on us to recognize our need to be more inclusive and more deliberate in our engagement with the community.”

“There’s going to be times when we’ll have to have some uncomfortable conversations,” he added. “We need to meet those challenges head-on, and you have to do that through relationships.”

He said he’s already taken steps in that direction since he took over as interim chief in January. The department used a federal grant to launch a community policing program with officers assigned to neighborhoods across the city, dedicated to understanding their issues and finding solutions.

“It’s important that the community has a say in how we go about serving them,” Bagley said. “It’s gonna be the relationship that’s the driving force.”

City Manager Rebecca Fleury said she’s gotten message after message — from the police union, patrol officers, even other city leaders — encouraging her to make Bagley the permanent chief.

“Community-based policing is a fancy buzzword, but not for Shannon,” she said. “This philosophy is in his DNA. You can see it in everything he touches. He inspires and challenges. This is what I was looking for in our next police chief.”

Fleury said she’s seen Bagley show up for tough conversations, comfort grieving families and work with faith leaders to fight rising violent crime.

“He’s a really good listener before he responds,” she said. “I think the community found comfort in that.”

Bagley also praised his officers for their compassion and commitment to service.

“We have a fantastic team,” he said. “I can’t tell you how fantastic the men and women are that I get to work with every day.”

Like police departments across the country, Battle Creek police have struggled with staffing. The new chief says recently, they were down to 90 sworn officers with 32 of them on patrol. But he says police embraced the challenge and hired 16 new officers that hit the streets in May.

“Are we 100% where we need to be? No,” Bagley said. “But we are in a much better position from a staffing component than we were just six months ago. We’re way better off than a lot of other agencies right now.”

While Bagley said three of the 16 new officers are minorities, he acknowledges there’s room to grow with diversity.

“I want to hire the best and most diverse group of individuals that I can to come in and serve,” Bagley said. “Why? Because the citizens deserve to see people that look like them in their community serving them.”

He says he met with pastors and community leaders on Sunday. He hopes to expand the department’s cadet program and police explorer program, which is aimed to get more young people interested in law enforcement.

“The negative narrative around (the) law enforcement profession is a struggle,” Fleury told News 8. “Again it’s not a Battle Creek thing, but I think Shannon and his team are doing a really great job countering that negative narrative. (Asking) what are you experiencing in Battle Creek? I think he’s there, ready, able and willing to ask those questions and involve as many voices within the community as possible.”

Bagley previously spent 25 years with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety — including working as a patrol officer, narcotics task force investigator, detective, sergeant, Office of Professional Standards lieutenant and Criminal Investigations Division captain — before leaving in 2018. He ran for Kalamazoo County Sheriff in 2020 but lost to current sheriff Richard Fuller.

Bagley then served as a captain with the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Public Safety Department. He became the investigations deputy chief for the BCPD in September 2021.

Becoming the chief of police for Battle Creek surprised him, he said.

“If you would’ve told me three years ago that I’d be standing up here and we’d be having this conversation, I would’ve called you crazy,” Bagley said.