By Sara E. Teller
THE HAZEL PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT WAS ORIGINALLY ESTABLISHED IN THE 1940S WITH JUST A HANDFUL OF OFFICERS. Since then it has grown ten-fold, with at least three dozen full-time members in addition to those employed part-time. Chief of Police Brian Buchholz has been at the Department for just over two decades, taking an entry level position in 1998 as a patrol officer. Since then, Buchholz has been promoted several times, moving up the ranks and becoming a sergeant, detective, and lieutenant with various responsibilities, until ultimately reaching his current post.
“I have been here for over 20 years. This was my first police job,” Buchholz explained. “I started as a patrolman at 23. I was pretty young when I got my start. In 2009, I was promoted to sergeant and, in 2012, to lieutenant. I’ve been chief for seven months now.” He added, “I’m still getting used to the job. I have many sleepless nights with stuff running through my head, but I get a lot of help from my team.”
Buchholz has also been a records bureau supervisor, personnel equipment supervisor, and hiring administrator as well as internal investigations coordinator. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ferris State University, and has gained extensive in-service training in a wide range of disciplines designed to help him under-stand how best to respond to difficult situations. Some of these include active-shooter and deadly-force encounters, specialized interviewing, interrogation, and combat techniques. He has received a certificate of merit from the City of Hazel Park as well as letters of commendation and appreciation from the neighboring communities of Ferndale and Madison Heights.
Buchholz’s wide range of experience lends well to his current position. “This is a small town and we’re a smaller department than most. So, we’re a tight knit group. We help each other out. We all do each other’s jobs and know what’s going on in the city. I’ll pick up the phone at the front desk from time to time. We just all help each other get the job done.”
IN LOOKING AFTER A SMALL TOWN, it’s necessary for members of the Hazel Park PD to keep a close working relationship with the City Council and local residents. “Mr. Klobucher has been Hazel Park’s City Manager for quite a while and knows how to get us to communicate with each other. We also have weekly staff meetings, so departments can get in touch with one another and better serve our residents. I have an open-door policy here and people will stop by and see me from time to time to talk about a number of things.”
The Department has long prided itself on its quick response time whenever officers are called for duty. “As a small town, we should be getting there quickly but it’s just something we’ve always focused on and done well, and we’re always working on,” Buchholz said, adding, “We really rely on residents to be our eyes and ears on the streets, though.”
As a tight-knit community, citizens of Hazel Park are able to benefit from services not typically found in larger areas. “We are able to serve residents with specific needs and do things for them that bigger cities simply can’t,” explained Buchholz.
“We assign officers to the same areas, so they can get to know residents and there are many who consider the officers their friends. They’re on a first-name basis with them. When our citizens are comfortable, it makes our jobs a whole lot easier. It helps everyone rest easier.”
The Department not only relies on the help of its sworn-in staff, the City, and call-ins from residents, it has also put together a few community policing programs that help keep the crime rate down and the city functioning as it should.
THE AUXILIARY UNIT
THIS SPECIAL PROGRAM IS NOW CALLED the “Reserve Unit,” and consists of volunteer police who supplement Hazel Park Police officers at special events and activities, emergencies, disasters, or other assignments as determined by Buchholz. The volunteer officers undergo training at the reserve academy. They offer their time and services to the Department, which is highly valuable when extra helping hands are needed.
“Members of this unit attend community events, such as the annual Memorial Day Parade and carnival,” Buchholz said. “They will also attend local sporting activities, such as basketball and football games, and ride along in patrol cars with full-time officers.”
The volunteers wear police uniforms and are able to perform many of the same tasks while
on duty. Their assistance is appreciated.
THE HAZEL PARK NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH is an organized group of civilians who help to prevent crime. Should members see anything suspicious, they must report this to authorities rather than intervene themselves.
“One of the reserve officers who is a dispatcher here runs it,” Buchholz explained. “It’s intertwined with the City and Police Department. The Watch holds meetings open to all citizens within the city of Hazel Park, and they try to get them involved with the program. They also appoint block leaders.
The group meets every three months with residents to go over different things, such as reviewing in-home surveillance cameras, reporting suspicious activity, and protecting everyone’s homes and personal property.” For more information, contact the Hazel Park non-emergency line (248-542-6161).
MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS SUPPORT UNIT (MCSU)
THE MCSU IS A UNIFORMED CIVILIAN VOLUNTEER GROUP dedicated to keeping Hazel Park’s streets and neighborhoods safe. Members do not possess police powers or authority and, therefore, cannot make arrests or do many other officer-related duties. The special unit has been in existence since the 1960s and has provided non-police assistance to the community during storms, emergencies, power outages, events, carnivals, festivals, fairs, and serious motor vehicle accidents.
“The MCSU consists of a group of volunteers who are our eyes and ears on the streets,” Buchholz said. “They are out and about in the community keeping watch. Sometimes they’ll sit in the Kroger parking lot, at the ice arena, or at another place of business. They’ll report weather hazards, and in the case of a down power line they’ll block off the street.”
MCSU volunteers are a huge asset to the city, according to Buchholz, helping sworn-in staff keep the crime rate down by tending to other important needs of the city which can sometimes arise and require manpower being used elsewhere. “It’s a great thing to have them on short notice,” Buchholz said.
The MCSU works with both the police and certain neighborhood groups to increase visual presence by patrolling in highly visible vehicles, too. This helps residents to feel safe and secure. When patrol cars are spotted in an area, it also minimizes the likelihood for crime.
There is an ongoing need for new members of the MCSU, and those interested in lending a hand are encouraged to apply. Applicants must meet a few minimum standards in addition to having a clean driving record and a clear criminal history. There is a minimum time commitment required.
The Hazel Park police department is also actively seeking qualified, competent candidates for available officer positions. Officers looking to get their start or make a career change should call the office at (248) 542-6161.