Our Next Police Chief

The city is very close to naming someone to officially replace former Police Chief Michael Reese since his retirement this past winter.  My understanding is that there are four people in contention for the post, one of them being the acting Interim Chief, Captain John Berg.

I don’t know any of the candidates well, but I have been privileged to meet a couple of them through my involvement with the city and especially with the city’s CERT team.  I want to tell you the story of when I met Mr. Berg.

On the evening of August 11, 2014, the city was hit by a massive series of rainstorms and flooding ensued.  My own street resembled a river, with a surging, foaming current going past my house onto 15 Mile Road.  Our CERT team was activated, and asked to stage at the Sterling Heights Police Department.  When I arrived there, the Lieutenant at the desk had me step around behind the main counter to wait for instruction.

Shortly afterward, I encountered a man wearing a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and holding a mop in his hands.  Somehow, he did not look like a janitor, and I could tell by the way the Lieutenant spoke to him that the man was not the Lieutenant’s subordinate.  That man turned out to be Captain John Berg, and that evening, instead of tasking one of his many subordinates with mopping up the water that had come in under the doorway of the Police station’s lower floor, he changed into work clothes and did it himself.

There is leadership by fiat, and then there is leadership by example.  Generally, people with the best work ethic are the ones who can lead by example.   In my opinion, they make the best leaders.

Now one brief interaction that I’m sure Mr. Berg doesn’t even remember is hardly enough to justify putting him in the department’s top post, but the confidence of the city administration in naming him interim chief tends to bolster the argument.  Like two of the other candidates, Mr. Berg is a professional with years on the force in what is a very highly regarded department that has been relatively free of scandal.  My understanding is that his record is absolutely impeccable, and I certainly was able to take the measure of the man in the brief encounter I had with him two years ago.

I have been told that the counter-argument to his candidacy is the fact that he is possibly scheduled to retire within the next few years.  It seems to me that this is the normal course of things for the most senior leaders in our city government: as soon as they accumulate all of the organizational knowledge, they age out and take their pension.   There are work-arounds to this problem however, and they have been employed multiple times to keep valued senior-level personnel on staff past their retirement dates, even when the DROP program is involved.  The current Fire Chief, Christopher Martin, is one such example: he is an excellent leader who rose to the position after he had already taken the DROP option.  The city, in its wisdom, found a way to accommodate this situation in a way that benefited both the residents and Mr. Martin.  Surely more of the same could happen with Mr. Berg.

I hasten to add that I mean no disrespect to any of the other candidates in my advocacy for Mr. Berg.  I have met one of them a couple of times and he has shown me that he takes a resident’s concerns seriously and handles them professionally.  I am certain that were he to be named chief, he would make a good one, and in my limited interaction with the department as part of the CERT team, I would be proud to work with him.

Sometimes, though, a person stands out just by doing something as humble as mopping a floor, and when that’s your first impression and you see that they’re also capable of being entrusted to run the entire department, you know you’ve found your guy.

In my opinion, John Berg deserves to have the interim title made permanent: he should be our next Chief of Police.


Posted on April 5, 2016, in Issues and views. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thank you Mr. Gariepy for writing truth supported by facts. You as a citizen of Sterling Heights deserve the best police chief possible for the future of the community. Hopefully this article will get more citizens to call their council person to find out what’s really going on here. The city manger selected the best candidate to be the next chief of police, he has to, it’s his job to do what’s best for the city even if four council members feel Mr. Vanderpool has to do as they say. Right is still right, only the politicians have to answer to special interest groups they made promises to for votes. Thank you Mr. Vanderpool for doing the right thing for the community and the police officers, it can’t be easy going against four votes who could be a future threat. But if enough of the truth gets out there and enough of the people of Sterling Heights are provided that truth the right thing will happen. I have heard politicians make comments such as the city manager needs to remember who he works for, maybe it’s the people of Sterling Heights who need to remind the politicians who they work for. Nobody want’s an open public discussion about this any more than what we have heard here, it will not be a benefit to our city and just another black eye on law enforcement during a time when the police are challenged by todays society at best.

  2. You would think these four of seven council members in Sterling Heights were part of the presidential primary mess that is going on in this country as much dirty politics are being played here. Not only do they not want to explain their vote against Captain Berg the interim Chief, they want to take their number two pick to a private vote behind closed doors to avoid revealing all the garbage that went into this process. More refuge problems how fitting. Point of fact all Interim chiefs in the past were confirmed as the chief of police with 7 to 0 votes, when the city hired the chief from the inside. Makes good sense to appoint the number one guy as interim chief to run the department to gain even more experience and for the well being of the department.

    Two council members out of the four that are behind this injustice approached the city manager in Sterling Heights and pressured him to change his recommendation from Captain Berg to a less qualified Captain. This would prevent the process from turning into a public mess at the April 19th city meeting when they have to vote publicly on the agenda item. We will be there to make sure the no votes have to explain their issues. The three council members doing the best thing for the city are standing their ground and vow to expose the dirty politics behind this and it is gaining momentum with the number of people who are coming to the council to find out what is going on here.

    Lets talk about the hiring process for the Sterling Heights Chief of Police. A national search was done and then the applicants were vetted first by a Google search which disqualified many of them. Must not have Google the other Captain that these four council people want because he would have been disqualified with the others. Then the remaining applicants were tested by an outside company. It is my understanding that the second choice Captain outscored Captain Berg by one point. Pretty darn good for Captain Berg when has been running the police department and doing his job as the Captain in the detective bureau and several other jobs at the same time and still scored one point behind the second choice Captain, shows he can handle all the stress of being the police chief.

    For those of you who don’t know the second choice Captain teaches the assessment center evaluation process that was used to test the applicants, charges $45.00 hour. He also took a lot of time off before the test so he could study. Someone had to be at work every day doing the work as chief of police and we know who that was.

    The second part of the testing process included a written response to five essay questions that were turned in to the city manager before the internal interview was conducted. This part of the testing process was put in place to thoroughly vet the remaining candidates. The outside company can not properly evaluate the candidates work performance, experience skills/abilities. This is because they do not see the applicants personnel file, disciplinary file awards and accomplishments. Basically they only know what the applicants present to them so it doesn’t give a true measure of the best candidate for the job. It is my assumption that Captain Berg aced this section of the test and with his combined high score from the first part of the evaluation launched him into the number spot for chief of police. I say assumption because City Manager Mark Vanderpool then issued a written recommendation to the city council that Captain Berg was the number one candidate that should be the next chief of police.

    Same recommendation that two council people tried to pressure the city manager to change. This is why the city council is not involved in any evaluation process for city department directors. To make sure the process thoroughly vetted the applicants the city manager had the city human resource director and the city attorney sit in on the interviews. All three found the interim police chief more than qualified and the best candidate for the job.

    Someone should contact the city attorney and ask him if it is proper for these two council
    people to try and change the results of the testing procedures, seems like at least that would be some violation of a ethical/moral clause as part of their oath they took to be your city council members.

    Thank you Mr. Vanderpool for holding your position. I hope the other three council people stay strong in this fight for what’s right. The citizens deserve the number one candidate as the next police chief, we are not a second best community and the four council people trying to make us that should be ashamed.

    More to come, am hearing union support and consideration may be part of this mess, we will have to wait and see I guess.

  3. Why are four people we elected to council backing this other Captain to be the next Chief of Police?

    What Captain Berg doesn’t bring to the table as the next chief of police is a well documented past of bad decisions that has brought negative attention to the city, damaged the police departments code of honor and commitment to excellence. That’s what the other Captain brings with him as the chief of police, why would our elected officials do that to us?

    Bad decision #1 as a patrol Sergeant he was involved in an incident at Rudgate Trailer Park that resulted in a one million dollar settlement being paid by the tax payers. When the city realized what the Sergeant stated had happened and documented in his police report was not necessarily accurate they were forced into settling for a million dollars before the other side found out and the tax payers would have paid out tens of millions of dollars.

    Bad decision #2 as a Lieutenant the same guy finished at the top of the list in the “Time Card Scandal” a scandal that haunts the city to this day. Why would any employee worry about braking the rules or the law, they aren’t going to get fired if this guy is chief the unions will make sure of that every time the city tries to discipline one of their union members.

    Bad decision #3 again as a Lieutenant the same guy was involved in a bad decision off duty that resulted in him being paralyzed to this day. Tragic as the incident was there are certain things that are reserved for police officers (and their families) that are doing the job and are severely injured or killed. That right was extended to this guy and now the tax payers are responsible for his off duty bad decision to the tune of a life time $90,000 yearly pension and full health care coverage for life. Did the same four council members vote for that also tax payers should really find out!

    Bad decision #4 as a Captain this guy was disciplined for not doing his job. He allowed the Lieutenant that works directly for him to improperly complete a traffic accident report. The Lieutenant was suspended for a month and patrol officer was suspended for two weeks. The Captain is supposed to be able to handle incidents on behalf of the city’s best interest. That did not happen here, much more to this incident if anyone cares to ask what happened. Another law suit it sounds like. Again why should we follow the rules when the command officers do not have to.

    I use the word confirmed because all the bad decisions listed above are confirmed in reports I am sure the police department and the city have. There are other rumors that have not been confirmed with facts yet regarding the police officers union president and city council. These are difficult facts but they are facts and the tax payers should know before these four council members put the tax payers on the hook for future problems.

    This may seen personal and to some degree it is, how can you expect those of us who try to good and have respect for the job to really want to work for this type of boss. Anyone who says that they would be proud to work him as chief you better watch out for, probably been on the wrong side of discipline or is about to be. Every one makes a mistake in their career at some point but how many chances does everyone else get? Guarantee any where else this guy is not still employed after this many chances! He is for sure not the face of the police department or CEO of the company.

    If the above incidents show nothing else it is a pattern of bad decisions that have left the tax payers paying the bill. Wait until these four council members make this guy the next chief of police, civil attorneys will be lining up to file a law suit against the city. The hefty pay days will only continue to pile up for us tax payers, thanks a lot, who ever is behind this atrocity.

  4. The interim Police Chief Capt. John Berg has the highest qualifications to be the next Police Chief of The Sterling Heights Police Department. He’s been the interim police chief for the last eight months and has filled the job on and off for Michael Reese on several occasions. He Has done administration duty with the F.B.I. Academy in Quantico, Virginia. And was head of the Dedectives and road patrol. He has the experience in running the department from the bottom to the top. This is not the time for back room deals in picking the next Police Chief for The City Of Sterling Heights by a few members of the City Council who have there own agenda, and this will not sit well with many of the residents who live in the City Of Sterling Heights. It’s time to voice your opinion to the Sterling Heights City Council Members that Capt. John Berg interim Police Chief is the best man for the job.

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