Changes with the chief
McKenna looks to improve police department, community public safety
Mike McKenna hasn't been Baldwin's police chief long, but he's already been making changes to improve the police department.
"I think we're making some good progress in the department as far as public safety issues go and being able to provide service to the community," he said.
McKenna, who became Baldwin's police chief a little more than two months ago, has already focused on improving the police department.
"It's imperative the police department be a professional organization," he said. "I made a number of internal changes in the police department that the public doesn't see and will be making more changes as far as department policy and procedure and rules and regulations."
He said he's had the support of the Baldwin officers throughout the recent changes.
"We have a group of people that want to improve," he said. "They want to become better law enforcement officers. My responsibility is to get them the training and the tools they need to get them to the professional level they want to be at."
But McKenna's plans for improvements don't stop within the police department.
"There are changes I'd like to see in the community, that would be visible to the community, that we haven't gotten to do yet, but I hope to do that in the year ahead," he said.
One of McKenna's goals is adding a third phone line for emergency service.
"At the present time, if more than two people try to call 911 for emergency help at the same time, they get a busy signal," he said. "I think Baldwin has grown to the point that we need to consider a move to get a third line for emergency service."
He said he would also like to implement a first responder program.
"Presently we don't have any first responders who are trained," he said. "We as police officers can respond, but we don't have the emergency equipment one needs to stabilize somebody until an ambulance arrives."
He said that's become more of an issue since the Lawrence and Douglas County emergency medical service unit is often stationed along U.S. Highway 59.
"If there's an emergency in Baldwin, it's a good 15 to 20 minutes from getting someone in Baldwin immediate care," he said. "We need a group of first responders here in the community that can respond to an emergency crisis."
McKenna said he would also like to explore the possibility of putting emergency call boxes, that are often seen on college campuses, at various spots around town, including downtown, along the highway and on Baker University's campus.
Because the police department is closed at night and an officer is often on patrol, he said it could be beneficial to have the call boxes in case of an emergency.
He said it's important he considers all that would be affected by his changes.
"Is it good for the organization and is it good for the community?" he said. "Those are two weighted factors that play a large part in the direction that we go."
Since joining the police force, McKenna said he has received a lot of community support making his transition easier.
"The support and backing that I have received from the citizens who have contacted me or come to the police department has really given me a lot of encouragement," he said. "I think there are many good people here in this community and all are very interested in having a safe community."
But in order to improve public safety and repair public relations with the police department, he said it will need to be a community collaboration that might not always be easy.
"I hope people understand that sometimes change isn't a painless process. Sometimes there's pain with change," he said. "But I feel that if I continue to receive the support and backing I've received so far, I feel very assured we'll be able to make the improvements they've been wanting."
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