If West Bloomfield Police Department Officer Patrick O'Rourke were able to continue his heroic work, he would have likely been promoted at some point, according to Chief Michael Patton.
The Township Board unanimously voted Monday night to approve a recommendation retroactively promoting O'Rourke to sergeant at its first meeting since his tragic death Sept. 9.
"I remember once talking with an old command officer that when we look at who we hire sometimes, we should look at these people who will be our next sergeants, lieutenants," Patton said. "Eventually someone in the department has to rise up to that level and Pat would have been one of those individuals.
"Pat had an innate leadership quality."
The board meeting was the first since the Sept. 9 police incident in which O'Rourke, 39, of Fenton was killed in the line of duty while part of a team responding to a report of shots fired in the home of resident Ricky Coley. It is the only time that a West Bloomfield Police Officer has died in the line of duty.
"It's been an emotional time for all of us," said Trustee Howard Rosenberg. "To honor Officer O’Rourke in this manner and to begin to refer to him as sergeant after this makes me proud of the department and the township."
The promotion effectively increases benefits for O'Rourke's family, including four young children and widow, Amy. Special changes were made to the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police department to allow for the family to receive benefits as though the 12-year WBPD veteran had served 25 years.
Labor attorney Howard Shifman said that the line of duty death benefit is normally based upon two-thirds of the officer's base salary, but that leadership thought the amount inadequate.
Shifman continued that the change should allow for the family to receive significantly more, basing his benefit on an average of his four highest annual salary amounts over the past 10 years.
"We did it based upon 25 years of service which is a legitimate basis," Shifman said. "When people work here for 25 years, we do 'fold-ins.' We don't calculate based on base salary."
"I've never seen a community outpouring like I've seen here and this agreement reflects that."
More changes to memorialize O'Rourke may be in the future, officials said. Trustee Larry Brown said that he will be in touch with the Road Commission for Oakland County to place a road sign on a major road near the police station.
"Hopefully, this is the only time that we lose an officer to this type of situation," Brown said.