Police plan extra patrols at Kalamazoo polls

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety says it is prepared to protect voters on Election Day, adding more patrols near polling places.

KDPS Chief Vernon Coakley says officers are also keeping a close eye on absentee ballot collection boxes and that each one is equipped with a surveillance camera.  

“We will be out proactively, we will be out reactively, we will be ready. We have a plan and we’re ready to execute that plan in the city of Kalamazoo,” Coakley said.  

He says residents should not be surprised if an officer says hello at a polling site. 

“We’re dug in. We know it’s going to be a long day. Every vote in Kalamazoo will be counted. We will not tolerate any intimidation or threatening manners or anything of that nature to our voters,” Coakley said. 

Voter intimidation was the concern Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson cited when she said open carry of guns at polling places would not be allowed this year — a ban that a judge later struck down as outside of her authority.

Faye Sills dropped off her absentee ballot Friday afternoon and said she feels that having surveillance cameras on the collection boxes is a good idea. 

“It does make me feel better. I think it is wild we have to have surveillance cameras on the boxes but it does make me feel just more secure that the city has an eye on that and they care about our votes,” Sills said. 

Signs direct people to the absentee ballot drop box in Kalamazoo on Oct. 30, 2020.

While Sills said she did not feel intimidated voting, she wants police to make sure residents are properly protected and understands if some voters are concerned about groups trying to intimidate at the polls. 

“I don’t blame people for feeling that way considering other events that have happened in our city with hate groups like the Proud Boys coming in,” Sills said, reference an August march by and brawl with the group, which is labeled as a hate group.

The chief says KDPS can call in additional staffing from neighboring departments if necessary.