Department working on body cams, updating policies

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City of Kent Police Chief Nicholas Shearer speaks to demonstrators outside of the Kent State University Police headquarters on campus.  File photo.

Just over a year into his tenure, Kent Chief of Police Nicholas Shearer said he has been working to update the department’s policies and procedures as well as implement the use of body cameras.

He told City Council this week that the department has been working withf Lexipol, a company that seeks to standardize policy, procedure and training in public safety operations. Over the past 10 months, the department has gone over its policies one by one with the company.

“I fully believe that what’s written down about the way we do something is the way we should do it,” Shearer said. “There were a lot of procedural changes in the department throughout that process.”

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The existing KPD policy manual is available on the city website. Shearer said some work needs to be done before the new manual is published. Aside from that, Lexipol also sends out “daily training bulletins” to all department personnel and keeps track of when they review policy changes.

He said the department’s body camera program is off to a slower start than he would like, but progress is being made. He recently submitted a grant application to the US Department of Justice for body cameras. If awarded, the total dollar amount would be a little more than $ 83,000. The system would be up and running within weeks of the city receiving the money because equipment and a vendor have already been selected.

Shearer also told council that while the school resource officer program for Kent’s middle school and high school has been in place for some time, the department has struggled to interact with younger kids. There is an emphasis on engaging with them more than just giving high fives in the hallways.

All Kent police shifts now have community relations officers, Shearer said. In addition to patrol duties, those officers utilize their free to time look for ways to engage with the community. The police department has also worked with local school officials to allow teachers to request officers visit their classrooms.

Officers are also more involved with the parks and recreation department’s summer day camp programs.

The Police Explorers Program is another youth engagement program Shearer is working on, but it is getting off the ground slowly due to the pandemic. The program, through Boy Scouts of America, uses career aptitude surveys to find young adults, starting at age 14, who have an interest or skillset in law enforcement.

Shearer said he is meeting with Kent City Schools Superintendent George Joseph and Boy Scout representatives later this month to work out final details.

Shearer also told council that in addition to state mandates, new Kent officers must also go through a field training program. It lasts a minimum of 16 weeks and must be taken regardless of previous experience.

Most officers undergoing the program realize they have to embrace the training and change their mentality, but not all.

“I understand that not everybody we hire is going to make it through our training program,” Shearer said. “I think that’s important for any training program. If you have a 100% success rate in your training program, your training program is not a successful training program.”

Annually, Shearer said all Kent officers also undergo a 40-hour annual in-service. Most recent training involved education about crowd management, reasonable use of force, de-escalation and more. In 2021, the city of Kent had the highest percentage of crisis intervention team officers in the county. Shearer said that, out of its 40 total officers, 23 were certified through the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County.

Shearer also plays an active role on the education committee of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

The department is also working with the Kent State University Police Department to create a cultural competency course. City officers will attend the course once it is ready, Shearer said.

Contact reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey with Kent news by email at kmcgarvey@recordpub.com or on Twitter at @kaitlynmcg_rc.


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