DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Dearborn Heights Police Chief Jerrod Hart announced a leave of absence due to “employment induced” health concerns and voiced frustrations over actions taken by the City Council during a recent Council meeting.
During the Jan. 23 City Council meeting, the Council passed a “no confidence” resolution against Mayor Bill Bazzi, Corporation Counsel Roger Farinha and Hart in a 5-2 vote and unanimously voted to cancel the salary and benefits of two directors within the Police Department.
“During the regular City Council meeting on Jan. 23, the esteemed body of the Dearborn Heights City Council added an agenda item to take a ‘vote of no confidence’ regarding my position,” Hart said in a press release. “I want to be clear — I do not seek to win the confidence of those members who voiced this frivolous opposition over my performance. Their beliefs and actions represent nothing that aligns with the high professional standards, ethics and integrity I have achieved throughout my 30+ years of professional law enforcement experience and related educational achievements.”
Hart went on to say that the Council ignored legal counsel’s advice regarding retaliation against the two directors — Kevin Swope and Paul Vanderplow — and himself for “implementing best-practices in law enforcement in close partnership with the Department of Justice, Community Policing Services (DOJ-COPS) in an effort to root out the corruption that had infiltrated the department.”
Progress of the city’s DOJ-COPS initiative can be found on their website and Dearborn Heights is currently the only city receiving this assistance, Hart said.
“Sadly, the Council’s members’ move was anticipated in furtherance of their illegal and retaliatory actions when this body illegally defunded DHPD Directors Swope and Vanderplow’s positions after that had been in place and functioning effectively over a year,” Hart said. “Naturally, they would attack me after repeated public threats to retaliate against us for discovering several instances of wrongdoing and administering discipline, which most Council members were aware of.”
Hart cited these wrongdoings and disciplines as including alleged ticket fixing; alleged traffic stop quotas to achieve overtime pay; alleged misappropriation of taxpayer property to a for-profit business; alleged excessive use of force; alleged instances of selected City Council members’ interference during traffic stops; an alleged instance of a command officer presenting and throwing a sex toy during a staff briefing; an alleged instance of a command officer sending pictures of his penis to other members of the agency; the alleged “deliberate” failure to process pistol purchase permits for citizens; the alleged failure to record and send more than 1,000 pistol purchase permits to the Michigan State Police as required by law; an alleged unbalanced cash fund in the Directed Patrol Unit; the alleged unrestricted and unauthorized access to property and evidence, including a command officer allegedly flying a drone out of property and an alleged covert placement of a camera in the women’s locker room.
“Although this list is not all inclusive, it offers the public a glance of the culture present prior to my appointment on Feb. 28, 2022 — and the work my directors and I needed to address and correct behind the scenes to achieve our goal of creating a professional, contemporary police department the citizens of Dearborn Heights so desperately deserve,” Hart said. “Fortunately, nearly all individuals involved in the above-listed misconduct are no longer employed by the city of Dearborn Heights. I strongly encourage residents to support the remaining staff who have endured a significant amount of organizational change over the last 23 months and who are now faced with a City Council that repeatedly denies the approval and payment for purchases of assets designed to help keep our residents, businesses and visitors safe… assets that would provide our officers with the tools they sorely need to better service the community.”
Hart also said he thinks it is convenient that this is happening while the Council knows he is out of the office for health reasons.
“Conveniently, the City Council took this action while I am out of the office to address employment-induced health concerns due to the continued harassment, retaliation, gaslighting and ghosting of our work and continued employment stability,” he said. “I offer my full support to Mayor Bazzi, who remains steadfast in his desire to have law and order in his police department in spite of some members of a part-time City Council (with no ‘hands-on’ professional law enforcement experience or formal training) attempting to run the day-to-day operations of a modern, complex police department (along with other department leaders who have experienced similar episodes of interference and harassment) … members who, by no means, are qualified or have the legal authority to do so.”
Mayor Bazzi voiced his concerns for Hart’s health and over the actions taken by the City Council.
“I am deeply concerned for Chief Hart, and wish him a quick and full return to good health,” he said. “In the short time he has been part of the Dearborn Heights family, he has proven to be an exemplary and valued asset to our organization. Chief Hart is a true professional and has, along with his leadership staff, led the Dearborn Heights Police Department out of a deplorable condition and is posturing the organization into becoming a truly efficient, professional, respectable department — one the entire community can be proud of.”
Director Swope will be acting chief until Hart returns to duty.