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Daily Journal
     February 24, 2020      #98-55 KDJ
 

Q&A with Kankakee Chief of Police: 

 

By Phil Angelo
Special to the Journal

There are a handful of jobs in every community that come under scrutiny from just about every citizen. One of those positions is chief of police.

In Kankakee, that position is filled by Frank J. Kosman, who was selected for the role in May after a unanimous vote by the Kankakee City Council. Kosman recently sat down with the Daily Journal to talk about his time on the job thus far.

How safe are we as a community? What do the statistics say? What are we doing well? Where do we need to improve?

We are like any other urban environment. You have to be aware of your surroundings. Kankakee has a lot of safe neighborhoods. People here are active in community groups, and they conscientiously report crimes. That’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, we have a higher crime rate than the average, but we are lower than Chicago.

Kankakee has a lot of community engagement. We are going out to meet the public at ward meetings. We need the community’s help in preventing and solving crimes. The department will work hand-in-hand with the mayor and aldermen. [Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong] has a good initiative in Kankakee United, working to coordinate resources to address gun violence.

What makes a good police officer?

An officer has to be dedicated to serve and want to improve the quality of life in his or her community. That means reporting issues of all kinds. A good officer can see all sorts of issues, like when a tree is blocking a stop sign and call to get the tree trimmer.

A good officer, too, does not take shortcuts when it comes to solving major crimes.

How are you getting along with the rank and file, since they had previously expressed dissatisfaction?

I have never had a problem with this staff. We have a good working relationship. There is good cooperation. We all have the same goal, which is to maintain a high level of service.

Does the department have enough minority (black and Hispanic) officers?

You always want a department that reflects its community. That’s true throughout the whole police profession. We will be contacting churches, organizations and youth to stir up interest and get applications to join the Kankakee Police. We want to tell people, “Here’s the route to become an officer.” We want to start the idea in a youth’s head that a career as a police officer is a good option to consider.

We want people to take the police eligibility test. A board of fire and police commissioners ultimately determines eligibility.

(The Kankakee department is currently at full strength with 68 sworn officers. That number includes 43 white males, 11 African-American males, six Hispanic males, five white females, two African-American females and one Asian male. The command structure is all male, equally split between white and African-American men. The lieutenants on the force include three white men and one African-American male.)

These days, police are under a lot of scrutiny across the nation. Is the scrutiny justified? When should an officer use his or her weapon?

Police should be held accountable. They are the only part of the local government that is armed. Force should only be used when needed.

Videocameras and body cameras across the nation have shown that most force is justified. It does serve as a check and, on the whole, it is good. The only issue with body cameras is cost. Kankakee does not have body cameras yet, but we are looking into them for next year’s budget, so it is not a pie in the sky here.

How will the safe house idea for the 2nd Ward help to fight crime?

Negotiations are going on now to purchase the house. The idea is to bring resources directly where they are needed. Parenting skills will be taught to help build stronger families. The police will be involved, along with various United Way organizations. It will be a cooperative effort.

Will the decriminalization of marijuana make the city safer? Or less safe?

I don’t think it’s going to change one way or the other. If you use marijuana, you now have the advantage of going to a place that is regulated and purchasing a product where the ingredients are known, rather than buying anything on the street.

A lot of national media attention is focused on the active shooter situation. If that happens here, are we ready?

We train. We are as ready as we can be. We will go out to businesses and offer training if they want it. This is an ongoing program. It did not start with me.

Does the city have enough resources to do the job? If you had a wish list, what would be the things you need?

I believe we have. We are on the upper end of number of officers for our population. We are a county seat, so it is difficult to compare us to a suburb. If you are a county seat, you have a lot of people coming through your community.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

When I get to solve a problem or help somebody. It’s also good when you recognize a good idea that someone else has. We are a team and together we can do our best. One of the things I enjoy in Kankakee is getting out to public meetings to answer questions.

Bio Box

Frank J. Kosman

Kankakee Police Chief

Personal: Age, 59. Married to Victoria. Father of four adult children. Resident of Kankakee. Grew up in Calumet Park.

Education:Graduate of Bradley University in Peoria with a degree in the administration of criminal justice. Master's degree in law enforcement and justice administration from Western Illinois University. Graduate of the Police Staff and Command program at the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety.

Profession: 34 years with the Bensonville Police Department, 16 years as chief. He is a certified police chief through the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Chief tip

A tip from the chief:

"Here’s a suggestion that will make you feel more in touch with law enforcement. There’s an app called “Ring” that the department is using. We’re posting things that happen and you can set the app for different perimeters from your home.

"It’s a way to find out police information and to share information. It pulls together networks of security cameras and it can be an anonymous way to make a crime tip."

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