Small Michigan Community Rebels Against Police Chief Over Civilian Reserve Officers, Armored Vehicles

Barry Township is a small Michigan community with less than 4000 residents, but Police Chief Victor Pierce acquired two Humvees and two armored personnel carriers from the U.S. Department of Defense to keep it safe. On the payroll, Barry Township has only four full-time officers and four part-time officers. According to the Detroit Free Press, Pierce has trained and armed at least 34 civilian reserve officers to provide back up to the department as needed.

The civilian reserve police officers are unpaid. Most are not from Barry Township. Barry Township residents question their motives and their skill. “These cops came into town with a vendetta, thinking they were going to tame this town,” said resident Steve Lincks. “This town was tamed 40 years ago.”

Barry Township, in Michigan, is home of the civilian reserve officers trained and armed by Police Chief Pierce.

Chief Pierce told the Free Press that the armored personnel carriers protect officers in the event of a barricaded gunman. He said that the Barry County Sheriff’s Department recently got similar vehicles, so the township may give theirs back to the Department of Defense, but he backs his decision to ramp up the Michigan township’s police force. “What I tried here was a visionary balance for the community,” said Police Chief Pierce said, according to the SF Gate. “It wasn’t all about trying to create any kind of military machine or mindset — nothing like that. So the numbers seem high but shortly after Sandy Hook (school shooting), I said that was the straw that broke the camel’s back…. I don’t want all these things to happen, but shame on me if something did.”

Michigan civilian officers in Barry Township train under Police Chief Pierce.
Civilians train as reserve police officers at the library in Delton, Michigan. Chief Pierce oversaw the training.

The township police department is located in Delton, Michigan. The Free Press wrote:

“The department operates out of a tiny one-room station in Delton. When a reporter and photographer arrived unannounced one morning in June, there were posters of Sylvester Stallone in the movie ‘Cobra,’ and posters for ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘RoboCop’ on the walls. Pierce was not in.

“When the Free Press returned for a scheduled interview a week later, the posters had been removed. Pierce declined to allow a Free Press photographer to take video or photos of the military vehicles kept in a garage, noting they were a source of controversy.”

Police Chief Pierce told the township board, “I have preached a vision and the Lord put me here for a reason.”

After being trained by Police Chief Pierce, around three dozen civilian reserve officers have been temporarily suspended due to insurance concerns. The Michigan small town residents are in an uproar that they were trained at all.

Residents say the police chief has the township nearly militarized. Hastings Banner reporter Constance Cheeseman has been covering the township meetings. Cheeseman said, “I can’t help feeling that this community is appalled that the police force thinks this is a rough-and-tumble community that requires police monitoring.”

One of the last straws for the community involved 58-year-old resident Jack Nadwornik. Jack has owned Tujax Tavern for 30 years. On his birthday, he celebrated there with friends. After the party, his restaurant was closed up for the night, but he had to urinate. He urinated in the corner of the dark, empty parking lot.

As Jack was zipping up his pants, one Barry Township police officer and two of of the unpaid reserves cornered him with two police cars and Jack was arrested. Police said he resisted arrest. Nadwornick said he didn’t. A waitress who was leaving the bar at close and saw the police cars, said that he did not resist arrest. By the end of the ordeal, Nadwornik’s hand was broken by a police baton, his elbows were bloody and he had been kneed in the back. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and was jailed.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Jack was assaulted,” said Tony Crosariol. Residents demanded a Michigan State Police investigation. The case was assigned a Michigan State Police investigator. The Michigan State Police investigation found no proof of criminal activity by the police force.

The Michigan Township Participating Plan insures the Barry Police department. Last month the MTPP warned that most of the reserve officers were in need of re-training. After that, the insurance company said they should only be used for special events, not every day. The township was given until mid November to comply with the insurance company’s request and has temporarily suspended the reserve program.

Chief Pierce also offered to train and arm local teachers with weapons, but the Delton Kellogg school district refused the offer. Instead, reserve officers have been placed in the schools.

Police Chief Pierce does have supporters too. For example, Chelsea Manies told MLIVE that without reserve officers in the schools she would worry about her 9-year-old sister.

Shirley Woods, 68, told the Free Press, “We’ve been taking for granted this life we lead, but it’s changing, and Victor is here to clean up the mess.”

Don Mohn, 77, doesn’t understand why so many people are upset over the Michigan bar owner’s arrest, “What? Are people just supposed to be allowed to pee in the streets? He’s a great police chief. It’s been lax for too long.”

[Photos via Barry Township Police on Facebook – Library photo via National Review]