KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Richard Roberts first joined Kentwood Police Department as a paramedic patrol officer, back when many West Michigan police departments ran so-called “e units” that handle both crimes and medical emergencies.
Ambulance services have since taken over those duties.
That is just one of the changes the new Kentwood police chief has experienced in his three decades with the department he now leads.
“Now, all our officers have computers in their cars. That is their office. We have so much more technology now than when I first started,” Roberts said.
Roberts is the first chief in Kentwood hired from inside the department, moving through the ranks from patrol officer to the top job.
He most recently served as deputy chief.
Robert’s promotion comes at a time of increased scrutiny nationwide over the way officers treat citizens of color.
Kentwood’s population is 18% black and 10% Hispanic.
Roberts credits the department’s strong outreach efforts for not only the support from the community but reductions in crimes that affect citizens the most like property crimes, which are now at a five-year low in Kentwood.
“And that’s not just with the community, but it’s with our businesses, it’s with our schools, it’s with our religious organizations. Because we can’t do our job without having a partnership with our community,” Roberts said.
The new chief says he will continue efforts to recruit a more diverse police force, by mentoring young people as early as middle school.
They will also continue efforts to train officers on how to handle matters not related to crimes.
“And that would include de-escalation, mental health crisis intervention. Those types of things are a real challenge,” Roberts said.
Before joining, KPD he was a deputy corrections officer at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and a Roosevelt Park police officer.
Roberts succeeds former Police Chief Thomas Hillen, who retired earlier this month after more than four decades of law enforcement in West Michigan.