By Katie Winkler
Clinton County Chatter staff reporter
ST. JOHNS — Since taking over as chief in December, St. Johns Police Chief Kyle Knight has been working to make the department less dependent on the county sheriff and state police.
As a life-long St. Johns resident, Knight worked at the police department before becoming the administrative officer for Clinton County’s Sheriff Department. When he returned to his hometown this time, he made it his goal to train his officers in specialized areas.
“The reason I want to be (self-sustaining) is so that we can have our own resources and not have to rely on others,” Knight said. “We have enough people here to take care of our own things, we just needed to be trained to do it.”
St. Johns Mayor Dana Beaman is very supportive of Knight’s efforts to better the police department and help make the city a safer place for residents.
“(Knight) proved to us that those types of trainings would benefit the knowledge and the continuing education of his police force, which in turn will help increase and enhance public safety,” Beaman said.
In May, Knight sent Sgt. Eric Worrall to a weeklong evidence tech program at Delta College, where he learned how to dust for prints and lift them, take DNA swabs and shoot photos to scale — to name a few.
Before his training, St. Johns had to use the county sheriffs and state police resources about 10 times a year, according to Knight. These were for instances of breaking and entering’s or dusting for fingerprints on found items. Now, Worrall is able to handle these types of situations.
Undersheriff of Clinton County Larry Jerue said he has seen a reduction of agencies assists request coming from St. Johns, showing that Knight’s efforts are paying off.
In addition to Worrall’s training, Knight sent a few officers to interviewing school so they would not have to depend on the county detective to conduct felony interviews.
“Now, we can handle the crimes ourselves,” Knight said.
He said the department sets aside $6,500 in their yearly budget for these trainings.
“(St. Johns) will spend the majority of this to make our officers more proficient in the job they do and our department more self-sustaining,” Knight said. “I feel it is very useful as it only betters our officers and assists the St. Johns community in the crimes we investigate and hopefully solve.”
Eric Hickey, Dean of Forensics Studies at Alliant International University and criminologist, agrees with Knight, saying the training is worth the money for small town police departments.
“The more training they get, the better,” Hickey said. “Not only makes them more valuable to the department, but it will help them in their own careers.”
But Knight is making sure the training he is putting his men through will benefit his specific community.
“I understand that at some point, I don’t want to waste tax payers money by sending people to specialized training that we are never going to use,” Knight said. “I try to make sure that whatever training I send them to, it is relevant to the problems that we are going to have in the city of St. Johns.”
Moving forward, Knight wants to make each officer proficient in an area of interest and add resources within the police department, including a video and audio room to tape felony interviews.
“We like to reassure the citizens that we are safe and that we don’t have the major crimes going on,” Worrall said. “But when we do, we are prepared and can get them taken care of.”