In a surprise announcement, the City of Kalamazoo announced late Wednesday that Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas, a 27 year veteran of the department, is retiring at the end of the month. Her final day will be September 30th. Named the new Chief is Vernon Coakley, who has been at KDPS for 22 years. Prior to that, he was a police officer in Detroit.

Thomas was named Chief in late 2017 when former Chief Jeff Hadley took a job in Georgia.

In the release announcing her retirement, Thomas said “I’m truly honored to have served the Kalamazoo community and its amazing residents for 27 years. I am proud to have served as Kalamazoo’s first female chief and I am excited to pass the baton to Assistant Chief Coakley, who has the leadership skills and vision to take this incredible department to the next level. I will truly miss the men and women who put it all on the line every day to keep our community safe.”

Coakley commented, “Chief Thomas leaves behind huge shoes to fill and I am truly thankful for the opportunity to learn from her, build upon our department’s many successes and help take the country’s largest combined public safety organization to the next level. The Kalamazoo community needs to come together and I look forward to strengthening our relationships and partnerships with businesses, faith leaders, and our entire Kalamazoo community to move us forward.”

2020 has been a challenging year for the department, not only with Covid-19 but protests that turned violent this summer.

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