Archive for Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Chief makes series of improvements in past year

January 7, 2004

Mike McKenna knew the job as Baldwin's police chief wasn't going to be easy when he accepted the position a year ago.

After the resignation of Steve Butell, McKenna accepted the police chief position and, along with that, a police department that had seen its share of controversy.

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McKenna admits there were some rough spots over the past 12 months -- and he expects more to come -- but he said the police department is now one in which the Baldwin community can be proud.

"When I walked in here a year ago, I knew there would be some difficult times ahead, and there were," he said. "I think this next year we'll have some good times and we'll have some bad times, but the end result will be a better, stronger, more cohesive police department than we had yesterday.

"I think we're going in the right direction for the good of the community and the betterment of the police department."

Council Member Todd Cohen said he was pleased with the changes that have been made to the department since McKenna's arrival.

"I think Chief McKenna has made an excellent start in rebuilding the department," Cohen said. "It's been a slow process, but he's made a tremendous start."

He said he thinks the community is also beginning to notice a difference.

"I think people have confidence in the chief and the police department now," he said.

In an effort to make a more professional police department, McKenna said, he initiated a number of improvements beginning with the officers themselves.

"I think morale in the police department is higher than it has been in some time," he said. "And communication has really improved."

Bi-monthly staff meetings, ethics and integrity training classes and a framework for a new department policy were some of the departmental changes implemented by the chief.

A number of capital upgrades, he said, have also been made within the department.

Wiring has been installed for computers for each officer, which will enable reports to be sent electronically instead of being hand delivered to Lawrence.

"It will really minimilize the time that's now spent traveling back and forth to Lawrence," he said.

The inside of the department has also been improved cosmetically with new coats of paint, carpet and tile, which McKenna said were needed.

He said the department is also working on replacing and updating much of its equipment.

"He's seen a lot of things that need to be addressed and things that need to be changed," City Administrator Jeff Dingman said. "Some of them are superficial to some degree, but they have an impact on how the people feel about the department.

"Mike's main focus is to make the general public in town feel the police department is competent and professional."

Mayor Ken Hayes said Baldwin has also seen a change in the number and types of cases the department has solved since McKenna took over as police chief.

"He has really brought a lot to the city in solving crimes as well as preventing them," Hayes said. "If you look at the cases he's cleared, he's really done a very good job."

McKenna said he has spent the last year trying to do what has been best for Baldwin.

"You know you're going to make some people angry and some people happy," he said. "But you're there to do the best job you can and you make the calls as you see them."

But he said the improvements to the police department wouldn't have been possible without the help of the community.

"It's not me, it's not the officers," he said. "It's the community support behind us.

"I look for 2004 to be a very good year for Baldwin City and the police department," he said. "As long as we have the support of the council and the community members, we'll have a positive impact on this area."

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