A Michigan police chief will face a personnel review board Tuesday after residents in the small community he polices complained that his department had grown too aggressive and militarized. His critics would like to see him fired.
The Barry Township Board voted Monday, after a two-hour closed-door session, to review the job performance of Chief Victor Pierce, reports the Kalamazoo Gazette.
A recent article in the Detroit Free Press tells the story of the embattled chief, who has hired 34 civilian, reserve officers to police the township with fewer than 4,000 residents. He has also added two Humvees and two armored personnel carriers from the U.S. Department of Defense to his department’s fleet.
That’s too much for many residents, who say they never felt in danger in the township in the first place.
“These cops came into town with a vendetta, thinking they were going to tame this town,” said longtime resident Steve Lincks. “This town was tamed 40 years ago.”
The situation reached a boiling point in May when two reserve officers and one full-time officer beat a local business owner who they saw urinating in the parking lot behind his business late one night.
Jack Nadwornik, who owns local Tujax Tavern, had been out drinking with friends to celebrate his 58th birthday. Police said he resisted arrest but Nadwornik and another witness deny that claim.
Resident Tony Crosariol said the incident was proof the reserve officer program was out of control.
“There’s no selection standard, no standards for training and they don’t react appropriately,” he said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Jack was assaulted.”
“What I tried here was a visionary balance for the community. It wasn’t all about trying to create any kind of military machine or mind-set — nothing like that. So the numbers seem high but shortly after Sandy Hook [school shooting], I said that was the straw that broke the camel’s back ... I don’t want all these things to happen, but shame on me if something did,” Pierce said in a recent interview.
He told the township board, “I have preached a vision and the Lord put me here for a reason.”
Pierce has his supporters in the community. Many of them turned out for Monday’s meeting wearing “I Stand with BTPD” shirts, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The police force has four full-time officers and four part-time officers. Experts say that is enough for a community the size of Barry Township. The board has since suspended the reserve officer program.
A state police investigation, conducted at the request of the board, into Pierce’s department recently found no proof of criminal activity by the officers in the department.
Pierce said that was a relief but added he still needed to get through the review board. Depending on the findings of the review he could be fired. He can request that the hearing take place behind closed doors but said he hasn’t decided if he will.
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