Q&A With Police Chief Michael Patton: Goals, Surprises, Negotiations
West Bloomfield Township's recently appointed police chief talked about the opportunity for growth of individual officers and running a department amid police union negotiations.
West Bloomfield Township Police Chief Michael Patton took the job in October 2010 to replace former Chief Ronald Cronin, who had served for nearly 20 years. Nearly six months after Patton’s appointment by the township board, he sat down with West Bloomfield Patch to answer three quick questions.
Patch: What can West Bloomfield residents have to look forward to as you gain experience with your position?
Patton: There’s always things that you could be doing. We’re trying to be proactive and look ahead to what needs might come up. We’ve increased training for all of our officers … We say, you can never train us enough. It used to be three days annually we’d train, but we’re going to expand to five days this year, in both spring and fall, so, bi-annually ... in everything from understanding cultural differences to firearms training, it’s all part of our job.
We’ve brought in people to tell us about cultural differences — for example, someone from Jewish Family Services is coming in this year, and we appreciate that. We need to be refreshed. Also, we’re working closer with Youth Assistance, there’s something we can do to divert youth away from (harm). That’s been underutilized.
Patch: Has anything happened to surprise you so far?
Patton: Just coming in, I had to get more immersed in budget operations. I didn’t have a lot of experience with the budget — I ask my staff 20 questions and I’m thankful that they give me 20 answers. We’ve moved things around, staff-wise; for example, we have 72 officers, nine less than last year. We’ve been very busy and feel there’s not enough hours in the day. It’s rewarding, but it’s a different job than operations.
Obviously, there’s the issue of negotiations with the police union which I’m now on the opposite table of the table on — I was a union steward for the command officers for 10 years. We were able to settle deals creatively — at one point, we were in line to get a wage increase, but we offered to turn that down in return for increasing our pensions … it’ll be easier to ask the public for a millage increase (later this year) if we can negotiate for concessions.
Patch: How does the uncertainty of labor negotiations affect the morale of the staff?
Patton: It’s a big topic. My philosophy is always to look to leaders to control morale. There were things I didn’t like previously, but it didn’t sour me. I think you can remove obstacles to help people long-term, whereas a raise is a short-term fix.
Nobody is in this for the money. What we can do that may be appreciated in the long run is that we have a new chance to reorganize the staff and provide rotation, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Thinking about my career, it’s been rich with different experiences, which helps me in this new job. I think that most officers would like to have that opportunity to learn new things.
Michael Patton at a glance
Experience: 25 years with the Police Department, including 10 years as lieutenant, seven years as sergeant and seven years as a patrol officer.
Previous assignment: Patrol supervisor, before beginning as Chief in October 2010.
Education: Master’s of public administration from Oakland University, attended FBI Leadership Academy in 2004.
Residency: West Bloomfield resident for 19 years.
Hobbies: Watching films