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Closings and Delays

City puts KDPS Chief on leave pending investigation of harassment allegations

KDPS Chief Vernon Coakley at a Nov. 11, 2021 news conference.
Leona Larson
Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley at a news conference at police headquarters in November.

In response to accusations of harassment against Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley, the city has put the Chief on paid administrative leave while the complaints are investigated.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday, after "city employees" filed allegations of harassment against him.

The early afternoon announcement came in a news release from Kalamazoo City Manager James Ritsema. The allegations against Coakley, according to the statement, were filed recently, but no further information regarding the nature of the complaints was given.

"The City of Kalamazoo takes allegations of harassment very seriously and will fully investigate any claims as required by law and the City’s personnel policies," the statement said. "To maintain the integrity of the investigation, and to protect the rights of all parties involved, no further information is available at this time."

The city hired an outside, independent investigator and Coakley has been relived of his duties pending the results of that investigation. In the meantime, KDPS Deputy Chief David Boysen will be the acting public safety chief "until further notice," the statement said.

City statement on KDPS Chief
City of Kalamazoo
The full statement from the City of Kalamazoo, released Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2021.

Coakley has been in law enforcement for 29-years. He joined the department in 1998 after five years with the Detroit Police Department. A Western Michigan University graduate and Bronco tight end/running back, Coakley was was sworn in as chief in October 2020. He replaced Karianne Thomas, who was terminated in 2020, after she came under fire for her controversial handling of a violent Proud Boys demonstration in August of that same year.

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started her media career producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special projects' producer and later, as an investigative producer. She spent several years teaching journalism for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.