It was really a team effort

Thanks to the Board of Directors for the Pontiac Youth Assistance who honored me at their annual breakfast yesterday with a recognition of our efforts in our Christmas Shopping event.  I had no idea and was completely surprised.  It was kind of them.  PYA award

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Officer Metter Rice, friendly Target helper and one of our shoppers.

I felt a little awkward because this event is a team effort–it is far from just me.   There were our sponsors, RGIS, one of the companies located in the City; the Auburn Hills Police Officers Association and Target.  They all gave us generous donations.  And the Auburn Hills Department of Parks and Recreation who let us use their bus to transport kids to the store and back.  There were volunteers who were from the Youth Assistance Board, their friends and families and City Council member VeRonica Mitchell who gave us some time on a snowy winter evening to help kids shop and wrap gifts.  And my excellent partner in this effort, Officer Metter Rice who secured the donations and helped that evening.  The kids were impressed to meet her–because she is an impressive person and she gave them a very positive view of a police officer.  And I want to especially recognize long time volunteer and example-setter Mike Kazyak.  Mike was one of our officers who retired several years ago and STILL attends these events and participates because he believes in the mission and he believes that one never knows what positive action a person can take which will influence a kid’s life forever.

Our whole shopping group including City Council member Veronica Mitchell, Ofc Metter Rice, volunteers from Pontiac Youth Assistance ant our Target hosts

Our whole shopping group including City Council member VeRonica Mitchell, Ofc Metter Rice, volunteers from Pontiac Youth Assistance ant our Target hosts

So I accept on behalf of all of these folks and their dedication to a better community and a better world.

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PYA Board President Melvin Lee, City Council member VeRonica Mitchell and me.

Detective Brian Martin Honored by Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton, Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and Detective Martin.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton, Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and Detective Martin.

Today we were privileged to attend Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper’s holiday lunch for her staff where she presented several awards to members of her own staff, police officers and detectives for their work over the past year.

AHPD Detective Brian Martin was one of the police investigators who was singled out for this  “Distinguished Service Award.”  It is great for our staff to be recognized any time for their good work, but this one was excellent in particular because it came from the Prosecutor who deals with the work product of investigators and knows which are of the highest quality.  Her letter said her:

…trial staff surveyed cases they handled this year and made recommendations regarding particularly notable law enforcement personnel who had gone above and beyond the call of duty in the execution of their duties.  The purpose of this was to single out law enforcement personnel whose work epitomized the finest combination of skill, innovation, dedication and professionalism in the pursuit of justice and to recognize them publicly…”

She told me that Brian was a unanimous choice for his work in the analysis of video evidence which helps them win important cases on behalf of the people of this county and the victims of crime.  He has been instrumental in some serious cases by assisting the Prosecutor’s Office with analysis of video.  Today the Prosecutor talked about his work on the Northland Mall case where security officers were trying to detain an individual who had threatened people, and unfortunately inadvertently causing his death.  Detective Martin’s role was to examine the video and enhance the detail so that the facts could be ascertained in a step-by-step review of what happened.  He helped to find the truth of the matter.  That is the highest calling of a detective – to find the truth.

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Prosecutor Cooper, in her remarks, talked to her staff about the partnership between police and prosecutors.  She made the point to them that police and prosecutors have a shared responsibility –together we are law enforcement.  Her Chief Assistant, Paul Walton made a similar point when he said that we stand together when we secure a conviction and we stand together when the case is dismissed if that is what “justice demands.”  Whatever the outcome, police and prosecutors face it together.

We truly are partners with their office and I am very pleased that they recognize Detective Martin’s commitment and the high skill level he brings to the job.

All of the investigators receiving awards.

All of the investigators receiving awards today.

We are proud of Brian and of what he achieves for our department and for the Prosecutor’s Office and for the people of Oakland County.  We know what an outstanding detective he is and we are pleased that he is being acknowledged publicly on a county level.

Great work and congratulations, Brian!

 

 

Three Policing Professionals Sign Off On Their Last Working Day

Today was an emotional day – in a good way- here at the PD as we celebrated the retirement of 3 of our long-term staff:  Sergeant Steve Groehn, Sergeant Mike O’Hala and Detective Ron Tuski.

Detective Ron Tuski, Sergeant Steve Groehn, Sergeant Mike O'Hala

Detective Ron Tuski, Sergeant Steve Groehn, Sergeant Mike O’Hala

I think we figured out that among them they have served the city for 71 years.  A great legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today was the day their families, friends, co workers and retired co workers came together to wish them well on their last day.

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As I watch them go, I think about how we met, 20 years ago when I came here as the deputy chief of police.  They were young and none were yet supervisors and Ron wasn’t a detective.  Although I’d been a command officer before in another department, they taught me a lot about how to do the job.  Each of them did it in their own style but always with care, compassion and the highest of ethics.  They were thoughtful when it was important to be thoughtful–when they were contemplating people’s lives in the field. They were full of action when it was time to take action to keep a situation from going from bad to worse. It was interesting that the 2 sergeants commented that one of the things they were grateful for was that they were able to send the members of their shifts home safety every day–no one was ever seriously injured or worse.

I know they have all been thinking about their legacies in the last few months because they each talked to me about it.  They were thinking about what they wanted to leave for the people who take their places (well, no one exactly takes their places–they are each so unique).   I’ve been hearing Mike on the radio working with his day shift crew in the field more than usual lately.  He has been making traffic stops and going on runs. His son, Reid, was here today dressed in his Marine Corps blues out of respect for his dad.

We could all see how proud Mike is of his son.  Mike made a special request of me–he asked me if he could pass along his badge to his replacement himself.  He said that he would feel better knowing that he had not left his post unmanned–that he had passed his responsibility on.  So Officer Bryan Eftink, who will be promoted to sergeant on November 1st, received his sergeant’s badge directly from Sgt. O’Hala, who had also given him his gun and equipment on his very first day as an officer.

Ofc Eftink receives his sergeant badge from Sgt. O'Hala

Ofc Eftink receives his sergeant badge from Sgt. O’Hala

Reid and Mike O'Hala

Reid and Mike O’Hala

 

 

 

 

 

Sgt Groehn has been passing along his knowledge of recruit officer training to Sgt. Stoinski who is taking over the field training program.  On the day he gave me his letter telling me that he was retiring he said that he’d had the letter for 2 weeks and just hadn’t been able to bring himself to turn it in.  His family told me how he had dreamed of being a police officer since he was a small boy.  It was very clear how proud they are of him.  He told me that he’d been bringing his young kids into the station as much as he could lately, so they would remember when he was a cop.  He won the Chief’s Award a few years ago for his work on our Highway Incident Management program.  I’m convinced his work improved the lives of commuters who pass through Auburn Hills and made us safer when officers work on the roadways–a top danger to police officers across the country.

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Sgt. Steve Groehn

 

 

 

 

 

And Detective Tuski gave his last talk to high school kids today in Oxford with Judge Nicholson.  Ron’s parents, his brother and his grandmother were all killed when they were in a car struck by a drunk driver on Christmas Eve, the year he became a police officer.  The chief (my predecessor) was the person who had to deliver the message to him because he was on duty.  For all these years he has gone to schools with our local judges about the story of his family’s tragedy.  I’m sure they would be proud today to see what a success he has made of his career and his life.Tuski and Gov

 

 

I could go on and on about these three as I could about our entire staff.  This community is fortunate to have a staff of such excellent quality who is so devoted to this community and this profession.  But I’ll close this post with the words of PSO Quentessa Tuff.  She gave the last radio sign off for these three professionals.

 

City units hold the air –

 

Tears for a few good cops fill our station today

Luckily these are tears of joy!

It has been an interesting run and great life experience.

Each of you have a special spot that we will hold dear to all of us.

As you leave today just remember you’ll be truly missed and the halls here at Auburn Hills Police Department will never be the same.

Congratulations and Happy Retirement to Det. Tuski, Sgt. Groehn and Sgt Ohala.

You are now out of Service – Radio clear@1546

 

 

MADD Honors Police Officers from Around the State

Every year Mothers Against Drunk Driving Michigan has a luncheon to honor officers who fight the fight to end drunk driving.  Today was the lunch in Troy with more than 200 law enforcement officers, police chiefs and command officers in attendance.  We are asked to nominate an officer for the award each year.  This year’s honoree was Officer Chris Willour who has been the recipient previously.  We are proud of Chris’ work to arrest drunk and drugged drivers and make the roads safe for the rest of us.  Chris works midnights and was telling me that he made an arrest on a drugged driver at 6 this morning.  Chris takes his job seriously and although his shift ended at 7 am he didn’t pass this individual by–he took the action he should have taken and made the arrest.  We were happy that his wife could join us at lunch today as well.

The lunch is also widely attended by MADD members many of whom have been victimized by drunk drivers.  The emcee was a radio host from WWJ CBS Detroit, Brooke Allen.  She told the audience about her personal experience when her husband was killed by a drunk driver 10 years ago. It was incredibly tragic. But she is clearly a survivor and her story served to encourage officers to keep up the fight.

Andthere wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Officer John Cleveland of the Ferndale Police Department told his personal story.  His 3 year old daughter was killed in the family van when it was hit by a drunk driver in 2012.  I heard the story of Officer Cleveland’s tragedy last year when he told it at the same event.  It is wrenching to hear a father describe the events of that day and after.  The Cleveland family has channeled their grief into support for MADD and police officers arresting drunk drivers everyday.  The family established an Oliva Cleveland Award this year to honor an officer engaged in this work.  This year the award went to Officer Mindy Weingart of Troy Police for an exceptional number of drunk and drugged driving arrests.

As I listened to Officer Cleveland tell his story I was thinking about another drunk driving crash–many, many years ago.   I had an uncle I never knew–he was killed by a drunk driver as a 10 year old boy riding his bicycle near his home.  The driver along with 3 of his friends had been having a party in the middle of the day.  After the boy was hit in front of his home, the car simply drove away.  Later when he was located, he received a ticket but he was never arrested or spent 1 day in jail.  My grandmother, who saw the crash and held her son in her arms as he died, suffered his loss every day for the rest of her life.   I heard the story frequently as I was growing up and I knew the effect on her and the entire family.  Later, when I was a patrol officer arresting drunk drivers,  the violators would frequently tell me how I was ruining their lives by arresting them.  I knew that wasn’t true–I was saving someone else’s life.

And so it is with these officers, they are saving someone’s life.  It was my honor to be with them today, to applaud their efforts and to support the work of MADD.

Congratulations, Officer Willour–I thank you and I’m proud of the work you do for this community.

Deputy Director Thom Hardesty, Officer Chris Willour and me at the MADD Lunch 2014

Deputy Director Thom Hardesty, Officer Chris Willour and me at the MADD Lunch 2014

Saving the Taxpayer’s Dollars

wpid-20140708_122509.jpgwpid-20140708_102826.jpgOne thing we pride ourselves on here in Emergency Services is how careful we are with the taxpayer’s dollars.  We are conscious all the time how we are using the dollars given to us by the taxpayers to provide the best possible services to the community.

We are constantly looking for ways to save a few bucks while still providing our employees with the best equipment and training to do the best possible job.  When the Police and Fire Departments were combined at the administration level in 2012, one of our most important missions was to find cost savings and efficiency wherever possible. We take that seriously.  The Department of Emergency Services in our 2014 budget should be running at 50% of our budget allocation for the year but we are running at 41% for the first half of the year.

The City Finance Director, Gary Barnes, started an annual award among the departments to bring a little friendly competition to the departments in how budgets are managed.

This year, for the 2nd year in a row, Deputy Director Jim Manning of Emergency Services/Fire was the winner of one of the 2013 Budget Cups for departments over $1M with a 12.3% savings.  This is calculated as savings over the budget allocation for the department.  He also won in 2012 with a whopping 22.7% savings in the Fire Department.

We have other winners in the past:

For cost savings over budget allocation:  Lt. Cas Miarka for Police Patrol budget at 6% in 2011 and in 2010 for Police Technical Services at 27.6%

For budgeting accuracy, which is calculated as ending the budget year expending as closely as possible (but not going over) to the budget allocation:

Lt Hardesty in Police Communications hit the budget at 101% in 2011

Lt Miarka in Police Patrol hit it at 96% in 2012.

Our command personnel move around among the divisions of the department to learn each function and as part of that, they are responsible to operate the budget in their current area of responsibility.  We see ourselves as a team brought together to produce an outcome of value for the citizens.  No one division of our department operates alone–there are lots of interlinked and moving parts.  What makes this challenging is that budgets are forecast 6 months in advance and throughout the fiscal year we must deal with constantly changing conditions while still achieving the goals set for us by the City Council and the goals we set for ourselves.

Congratulations to all of the other city departments who were budget cup winners as well.

Auburn Hills Detective Tuski Honored when John Walsh, Gov. Snyder address CARE House fundraiser in Birmingham

On Friday, January 31,  Auburn Hills Detective Ron Tuski was honored at a CARE House luncheon  at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.  He was nominated by the Department for his long and distinguished service to the abused and neglected children of this community.

Det. Tuski and his wife, Martha with John Walsh at the CARE House Circle of Friends luncheon

Det. Tuski and his wife, Martha with John Walsh at the CARE House Circle of Friends luncheon

John Walsh, Gov. Snyder address CARE House fundraiser in Birmingham.Ron Tuski has been with the Auburn Hills Police Department for 24 years, 14 of those years as an Investigator. Detective Tuski has been involved with Care House Advocacy Center from the early days of his career as a detective utilizing the center as well as being a forensic interviewer.Lt. Jill McDonnell, the Criminal Investigations Division Commander and Ron’s boss says:  “He has participated in dozens of child abuse and neglect investigations pursuing those that could be prosecuted and getting assistance for those that were not prosecutable.  Detective Tuski puts the welfare of the child first and foremost in the all the cases he investigates. Whether the case is an abuse or neglect case or even other kinds of criminal cases he works to insure the safety and welfare of the child(ren).  Detective Tuski shares his knowledge with new/fellow officers of the importance of a multi- disciplinary interview of children to minimize the trauma.”

Detective Tuski’s hard work, special attention and dedication to cases involving children is the reason why we have selected him as our Care House Circle of Friends nominee.

Det. Tuski and Gov. Snyder

Det. Tuski and Gov. Snyder

Congratulations, Ron and well deserved!  We are proud of you.

Thanks to This Community

Thanks to all of you we are once again a National Award Winning department for our National Night Out event that was held in August.   Our National Night Out event highlights the partnership between our public safety and our community.

Only Auburn Hills and Muskegon received awards for 2013.

Our team, led by Officer Metter Rice, once again made this a positive, fun night out for families.  Yet another reason that Auburn Hills is a great place to live and do business!

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Emergency Services Wins 2 City Budget Cups!!!

Here in Auburn Hills we are always mindful of the taxpayers’ dollars that we use to provide services.  We are highly conscious of what we spent to achieve what outcome.  Personally, I like to squeeze everything I can out of the dollars we are alloted for Emergency Services (Police/Fire) to achieve the best possible outcome. I also like us to be good planners and look out into the future as best we can to figure out trends that may affect our work and to predict (as best we can) what we will need to assure the community the best quality services at the best price.  City Finance Director Gary Barnes wants to inspires a little friendly competition among city departments to reward us for our diligence each year at the point at which the previous year’s budget is closed out.  So today was the day.

Emergency Services divisions received 2 of the 4 total budget awards:

Lt. Cas Miarka won an award for budget accuracy (not his first).  His division, Operations (personnel working in the field in uniform) won an award for best budget accuracy.   We do our budget estimating about 6 months earlier than the budget year begins so it is a process of estimating based on the previous year, good planning and prediction for the upcoming year.  He predicted his budget to an accuracy of 96% for 2012.   If we predict accurately that means we get our job done plus we don’t obligate money that could go to other city services unnecessarily.   Suppression Division of the Fire Department won for most cost savings at 22% of their 2012 budget.  They have done a great job of re evaluating how they spend their budget to find more efficiencies.  The Fire Division has been undergoing many changes and this is another of the outcomes we were seeking when we combined our leadership staff between police and fire.

Assistant Fire Chief Tony Macias, Supression Division

Assistant Fire Chief Tony Macias, suppression Division

Lt. Cas Miarka, Operations Division Commander

Lt. Cas Miarka, Operations Division Commander

I thought you’d like to know that we treat your money as good (or maybe better) than we do our own.

Recognizing Our Employees

Guest Blogger: Lt. Ryan Gagnon

Our department values integrity, employees, service, and work environment.  A big part of our value statement has to do with the men and women of the Auburn Hills Police Department.  We have a great group of employees with diverse educational backgrounds and life experiences that really makes this a great place to work.  Our value statement states, “We value all who demonstrate self motivation, pride in work, performance, patience and willingness to cooperate with others,”

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On May 15th we had the privilege of honoring our employees at our annual awards banquet.  We recognized numerous employees for the excellent work they have done over the last year.  Some of the highlights of the night included Sergeant Jeremy Stubbs and Officer Ivette Brown being awarded the “Chief’s Award” for their innovation and dedication on the successful use of the department’s social media program.

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Detective Brian Martin was recognized as the 2013 recipient of the Auburn Hills Morning Optimist Club “Officer of the Year”.  Detective Martin’s commitment to the mission of the department through his thorough investigations and attention to detail make him a deserving recipient this year.

Sergeant Rick Leonard was awarded a Department Citation for the actions he took while off duty in July 2012.  SgtDSC_0074. Leonard was up north at a family cottage when he observed a commotion on the lake.  He immediately drove his boat over to the area and realized that a man had fallen under water and could not be located.  Sgt. Leonard immediately jumped into the lake and retrieved the man from the bottom, in about 15 feet of water.  Attempts were made to save the man’s life, but unfortunately he did not make it.  Sgt. Leonard demonstrated courage and selflessness by trying to rescue this man and for his actions was awarded a department citation.

Ms. Kelley Fortuna received a standing ovation from the audience when she was awarded a “Citizen’s Award” for her actions in December 2012.  Ms. Fortuna was stopped to report an accident on South Blvd. and I-75.  An Auburn Hills police officer arrived at the scene and was in the process of getting out of his car when he was struck on the driver’s door by another vehicle traveling the opposite direction.  The officer sustained serious injuries from the impact.  Ms. Fortuna remained calm and called 911 to report the crash.  She retrieved the officer’s medical bag from the trunk and provided medical aid until EMS arrived.  Ms. Fortuna stayed with the officer and helped him to also remain calm until help arrived.  We are grateful for her actions that day and honored to recognize her with this award.

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Numerous awards were handed out this night to other members of the department.  Overall it was a successful event and is always a privilege to recognize our staff for all of the hard work they do.  It is an honor to serve alongside the great men and women of the Auburn Hills Police Department.

“Honor earned, never given.”