KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) is welcoming a new police chief.
Chief Vernon Coakley has been with the department for more than 20 years, officially taking over the role on Thursday.
After 27 years, former KDPS Chief Karianne Thomas has retired leaving Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley to fill her shoes.
The newly sworn-in Chief Coakley said he's ready to take the organization to another level.
"Chief Karianne Thomas put 30 years of notorious service in this organization, and it is awesome. She has brought this organization up to point where she can now pass the baton to a person just like me," said Chief of Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Vernon Coakley.
Former Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley said he's excited for his new role at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.
The new chief has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and has been with KDPS since 1998.
He said he has big plans for his first 45 days on the new job.
"I am going to be a boot on the ground. I am looking to get out into this community and listen. I am looking to have real, fresh, current dialogue with this community," said Chief Coakley.
Chief Coakley said he has priorities in his new position to ensure the department and community learn to understand one another.
"My three priorities is keeping this community safe. That is imperative for me. Listening, listening to people. Listening to this community to know exactly what they want from their Public Safety Department and then strengthening relationships, getting that out. We have to strengthen the relationships," said Chief Coakley.
Just one day in, and he's already looking forward.
"Let’s build a better Kalamazoo, let’s make sure it is strong and visitors that come here never want to leave," said Chief Coakley.
Chief Coakley also announced the department is planning to hire a public information officer as well as a community outreach specialist to keep the conversation going between residents and KDPS.