Wyoming names 1st woman public safety chief

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Chief was not a title she aspired to when Kim Koster first put on a Wyoming police badge 22 years ago.

“When I started, I was just really focused on being the best cop I could be,” Koster told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday, the day after the Wyoming City Council voted unanimously to name her public safety chief. She is the first woman to have the job in Wyoming.

Later this month, Koster will take over the day-to-day operations of police and fire services in the city. She will be sworn in April 25.

Current Chief James Carmody, who has worked in public safety for four decades, will retire the next day. Carmody says he has “complete confidence” in Koster’s ability to lead the department.

Wyoming has 86 sworn police officers and 29 full-time firefighters. Unlike fully cross-trained public safety departments, like in Kalamazoo and East Grand Rapids where officers do both jobs, Wyoming only combined management of the two departments.  

Koster brings 22 year of service, experience in just about every division in the department and a slew of commendations to the job. But perhaps her biggest asset is a deep respect for the people she works with, something crucial to running a tight-knit organization like a public safety department.

“I feel like its home for me,” she said. “So to be able to be the leader here is very special to me.”

Koster began her law enforcement career in Wyoming in 1996. She worked her way up the ranks to the detective bureau to sergeant and lieutenant. In 2010, she was promoted to captain. She helped combine management of police and fire department operations. For several years, she was the face of the department as she served as its public information officer.

But the jobs that may serve her the best in the long run were at the beginning of her career. She worked as a school resource and community policing officer, getting to know the people and the neighborhoods.

“I never would have thought that today I’d be sitting as the chief of police,” Koster said. “But it really is kind of full circle for me, because it’s really is about community. It’s really kind of going back to those relationships I had fostered then and continued.

“Now more than ever in law enforcement, we need leaders who are going to communicate, and really listen to what the community is saying,” she continued. “But also communicate on the other end, to really explain why we do what we do and some of the challenges we face.”

Beyond a tweak here and there, Koster doesn’t see a need to change much from the way the retiring chief has run things.

“In terms of where we’re going and how we get there, I like the direction Chief Carmody has brought us in,” Koster said.

Much of Carmody’s work has helped build better relations between Wyoming police and the community they serve. Making that relationship strong and positive is a challenge just about every department in the county is dealing with.
“There’s some truth on both sides of issues, and trying to get to the middle ground and understand each other I think is extremely important,” Koster said.

Koster is a resident of Grand Rapids, where she lives with her wife, Marie, and three of her children. She also has two adult stepchildren.

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