KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — An independent review into the policies and actions by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety during the 2020 downtown protests is complete.
The civil unrest in downtown Kalamazoo three years ago was a time then-assistant chief David Boysen never wanted to see in the city he and his officers are sworn to protect and serve.
“It was horrible for all of us,” said Boysen, who now serves as chief. “It was tough for everybody. I don’t ever want to have to experience that again. We are trying to put everything we can in place to make sure that does not happen again because I don’t think anyone wants to relive that.”
A two-year report by OIR Group, an outside, independent firm, assigned a total of 40 recommendations to the chief’s office, command operations, and the department’s professional standards. Since then, KDPS policy updates based on those included communicating and engaging with protestors, use of force options, transparency through bodycam footage, and mutual aid from other agencies.
“We really put a lot of thought into that, and a lot of these things have taken time,” Boysen explained. “But we have implemented many new things since 2020, so we have things available to us — equipment and training, additional staff — that we did not have in 2020.”
Additional staff included doubling the department’s crowd management team.
Five of the 40 recommendations needed community input: clearer protocols for dispersal orders and police zone declarations, establishing guidelines for calling in the National Guard, addressing criminal misconduct in protests, and determining which crowd control techniques would be authorized.
In March 2023, a subcommittee made up of leaders from KDPS, the city and community groups agreed that the proposed changes addressing those were fair and reasonable, saying the freedoms of speech and assembly are protected for protestors who would demonstrate in Kalamazoo.
“The balance is we have to protect people’s constitutional rights,” Boysen said. “People have a right to assembly. They have a right to protest. We just want to make sure they’re doing it safely, within the law. We’re there as peacekeepers to make sure that the protestors are safe, the community is safe, and everyone’s constitutional rights are protected.”
Boysen said while the review and its report are finished, his department will not stop learning and training to maintain that balance.
News 8 reached out to the OIR Group for comment, but they were unavailable for an interview.