Lee sworn in as Kent’s first ever female police chief

Captain Michelle Lee of the Kent Police Department will take over as Police Chief on Monday. She has been in law enforcement for 23 years. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Captain Michelle Lee of the Kent Police Department will take over as Police Chief on Monday. She has been in law enforcement for 23 years. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Allison Smith

Michelle Lee will take over as the chief of police for the City of Kent today.

City Manager David Ruller swore in Michelle Lee as the force’s first female chief Wednesday during the city council meeting.

In the same meeting, James Peach stepped down from chief of police after working 37 years on the Kent police force.

“From Chief Peach to Chief Lee, I hope it’s going to be a seamless transition,” Lee said.

Lee is one of six people being promoted within the department because of Peach’s retirement. Lt. Jayme Cole is being promoted to captain, Sgt. Jim Prusha is being promoted to lieutenant, Officer Mike Lewis is being promoted to sergeant, Sgt. Bob Treharn is being promoted to lieutenant and Detective Jen Ennemoser is being promoted to sergeant.

“The future of the City of Kent is in good hands with the police department and current and future leadership management based on their education, training, experience and commitment to service to the City of Kent,” Peach said.

Lee said it’s a little early to list off the goals she has for the department, but she hopes she can mend the relationship between the police department and Kent State students.

“I know students think of us as, the word has been used before, as antagonistic,” Lee said. “I don’t really see it that way, but if there’s ever anything I can do to help the relationship between the students and the police department, I’d like to be a part of that.”

She said she also wants to continue on some of the programs Peach started during his 14 years as chief of police, such as the citizen’s police academy and the bike patrol.

“For years that patrol kind of sat and wasted away,” Lee said. “We didn’t have a lot of money or personnel to put towards that. So we’re going to be up and running with that in the spring.”

The new police chief

Lee started out at Kent State as an art student, but after a year she realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do. She talked to a friend of her brother’s who was going into law enforcement.

“The more I started thinking about, it just really appealed to me,” Lee said. “I knew I could do it physically and mentally, and I just knew that’s what it was going to be.”

Lee transferred to University of Akron because the school offered a two-year degree in criminal justice. It was during her two years at Akron that she began working as a security guard.

“So while I was in college, and then after I graduated, I did various different jobs,” Lee said. “So that’s when I was in private security.”

She said she started at the Kent Police Department in 1987 as a patrolman after taking civil service tests and a fitness test.

“It was actually almost a year after I’d taken those tests that they had openings,” she said.

Detective Bruce Bassett started at the Kent Police Department at the same time Lee did and thinks she’s perfect for the job.

“You have to be able to communicate with people, especially with the press, as well as council people, and officers and the public in general,” Bassett said. “She’s got all of those skills. I’ve seen her in action now for about 23 years.”

He said it’s Lee’s personality that will make her a good chief of police.

“She could back me up any time,” he said. “She was the greatest police officer, she knew her job, she knew the statute, she knew the rules and regulations of the department as an officer, all that.”

Lee said even though she is the first female chief of police at the Kent Police Department, gender really shouldn’t play much of a part in her duties. She said it’s a topic people enjoy talking about, but she doesn’t think it’s going to be that important.

“I don’t think it’s going to play much of a role,” Lee said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a factor too much.”

Contact Allison Smith at [email protected].