Kent police department to invest in community policing projects

Samantha Laros

The Kent Police Department will invest $45,900 in community policing programs over the next two to three years with increased awards from the federal Justice Assistance Grant.

“The uniqueness this year is that the ARRA program (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) put special funds into the JAG (justice) funds,” Kent Safety Director William Lillich said. “We are receiving a one-time award of $71,400 to be split between the Kent Police Department and the Portage County Commissioner’s Office.”

JAG is given by the Bureau of Justice Assistance to lower jurisdictions. The amount awarded is based on a formula based on population and frequency of Part 1 crimes, which are serious felonious offenses such as murder, arson and rape, Lillich said.

“We’ve been using this process for 15 years or so, and Kent almost always qualifies,” he said.

In past years, the Kent Police Department was awarded about $11,000 to be split between city and county levels. Lillich said the KPD’s share ranged from $6,500 to $7,000.

This year, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave $2 billion to the JAG program, according to The money was made available to state and local jurisdictions in the fall.

The Kent Police Department will receive about $45,900, its share of the $71,400, when the Kent city budget is finalized.

Lillich said the KPD hopes to improve its visibility and “determine the needs of different citizens,” focusing on low-income housing and high student-occupied areas.

A portion of the money will be used to implement a series of citizen police academies over the next two years. The rest of the money will go towards biking equipment, uniforms and police dogs, as well as bicycle and K-9 unit special training.

Lt. Jayme Cole of the KPD said training is key for officers who have not worked on bikes before. He said he remembers taking about 40 hours of bike training when he was new to the force.

“A lot of police work is based on routine,” he said. “You find the best way to do things and do it every time. Patrolling on a bike is vastly different. You have to learn how to navigate obstacles and avoid emergencies, (and) the radio is different.”

Cole also said a strong K-9 patrol is crucial to community relationships.

“Our dogs are very popular,” he said. “We take them downtown, to schools and to the heritage festival. They open up a gateway to start a conversation.”

Cole said he hopes the new funding will bring back the community presence he remembers when he first joined the force and improve the relationship between the city’s residents and its police force.

He said there is no distinction between students and non-student residents of Kent, and each group should benefit equally from the new programs.

Some students feel differently about this notion.

“I don’t like the cops because they are biased against college students, “ said Tom Bromagen, sophomore recreation and tourism management major. “They treat you like a criminal before knowing the details and without proper cause.”

Bromagen, like many other students, said he thinks it was the police department who escalated the situation from a large, controlled party to an angry “riot” during College Fest last April.

Cole said when he approaches a scene, he has no way of distinguishing between college students and residents.

And Lillich said he does not believe all the issues between students and the police can be fixed through community policing measures.

“Seeing a cop on a bike probably would not prompt me to walk up and say hi,” Bromagen said.

“We’d just like to open (students) horizons a little bit,” Lillich said. “Sometimes getting along in your neighborhood can make your life in college easier.”

Contact public affairs reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected].