KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo City Commission voted Monday night to add a victim’s advocate/social services coordinator to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.  

Chief Vernon Coakley appeared before the commission to ask for a budget reallocation to hire a full time employee to coordinate between KDPS and social service agencies on behalf of crime victims and people in crisis.  

According to Coakley’s presentation, KDPS responded to over 120,000 calls for service in 2020. Of those, 1,056 were about what he referred to as “victimization.”

The Department responded to 14 homicides, 75 non-fatal shootings, 777 suicide/attempt calls, 181 Crisis Intervention Team calls, 3 fatal fires and 6 fatal traffic crashes. Coakley says each of those calls has multiple victims or people who need help navigating social services after they leave.  

Coakley described the position as the sole point of contact from public safety with the community. This position will act as a liaison between KDPS, community, county and state social services agencies, provide referrals, advocate for victims and follow up with crime victims.  

Coakley described what they’re currently doing as giving a phone number to someone in need.

“When a person is in crisis, this is not the time to pass a phone number,” Coakley said.

His hope is this new coordinator can be a conduit.  

Commissioners voted 7-0 to the budget reallocation but not before bringing up a few concerns.  

Vice Mayor Patrese Griffin told Coakley she had concerns about this work being put on one person instead of using the funds to hire “the people who are already doing the work.”

Griffin also raised points about only having one person who will be needed 24/7.

“That’s a heavy load to put on one person,” she said.

Commissioner Jack Urban commended Coakley for following up on “the promise you made last fall.”

Urban also asked that Coakley come back to the commission six months after the position is filled to update the commission on what they learned and what he needs to be successful.  

The new position will come out of KDPS’s budget. Coakley hopes to have the position filled in about six months.