The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety announced today they have received a near two million award from the Department of Justice. It's the 2020 COPS Hiring Program Award and it's earmarked for strengthening "community relationships, reduce gun violence by covering salaries, fringe benefits for 15 new officers."

In a release, KDPS says the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program Award will provide 75% of the salaries and fringe benefits for 15 new entry-level Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers for three years.

“I want to thank the Kalamazoo City Commission for accepting this grant that will help us put 15 more officers on the streets, and increase staffing at KDPS to better serve our community. Adding 15 additional community-oriented officers will go a long way toward our goals of fostering trust and strengthening relationships with our community, reducing gun violence and helping to create a better Kalamazoo we can all enjoy.” - new Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley.

The release says KDPS applied for the COPS Hiring Program grant – in the reducing gun violence category – in March 2020. The application was developed in coordination with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and EL Concilio-Kalamazoo. The remaining 25% of officer salaries will come from the public safety general fund budget. KDPS will be responsible for retaining all sworn officer positions awarded under the grant for a minimum of 12 months following the three-year federal funding period.

The announcement brings some positive news for a unit that has seen several major challenges, with violent erupting during social protests, and with the retirement of Chief Karianne Thomas at the end of September.

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