Chief: KDPS ‘committed to work forward’

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety chief on Monday addressed how her department responded to protests and civil unrest in recent weeks.

Chief Karianne Thomas said the decisions about how to respond were not made lightly. She said KDPS learned agitators from Chicago, Benton Harbor and people in the city planned to do damage overnight from June 1 to June 2, when several businesses near Bronson Park had their windows smashed. Police used tear gas on the crowd that night and again on protesters who refused to go home after curfew fell the following evening.

Thomas reviewed the department’s 21st Century Policing plan, among other initiatives, during the meeting but acknowledged more needs to be done.

“We recognize there were areas that we could have done better, could have communicated better and we’re committed to that. We’re committed to trying to work forward as your public safety department and the things that we do here has a direct impact on everyone’s life and we need to make sure that we’re very thoughtful on what we do,” Thomas said.

Thomas said her department has video showing some people breaking windows then joining the crowd on June 1. But some people in the crowd told News 8 they were lying down and peaceful protesters not involved with the destruction of property.

Commissioner Eric Cunningham introduced a resolution to have the community work with the commission on updating hiring standards.

“It’s not an ask. It’s not a whether we hit the mark or not. It has to be a directive, a direct order that these are the expectations and if these expectations aren’t met, then we need to address them in a different manner,” Cunningham said.

The resolution was approved.

The commission meeting heard dozens of comments from the public, many of which addressed the police department. Most called for change but the recommendations ranged from additional training to defunding KDPS.

Kalamazoo’s city manager outlined a six-month plan that includes an independent review of the protests, a follow-up study on racial disparity in traffic stops and strengthening the internal review process.

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