By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — A packed room of police officers, family members, community leaders and city staff watched Nov. 20 as Deputy Chief Michael Petri was sworn in as the city’s newest police chief during a change in command ceremony.
David Turfe, 20th District Court judge, issued the oath. Retired Police Chief Dan Voltattorni watched as Petri was sworn at the Dearborn Heights Justice Center, 25637 Michigan Ave.
Petri said he is going to do his best to follow the “great leadership” he’s had with Voltattorni, former Police Chief Lee Gavin and other mentors he’s had in the department.
“Looking back and reflecting, I was sitting in my office,” he said. “I was trying to write things and think about all the different ways I could go about introducing myself to the community and to the officers — most of the officers know me and everybody around here has known me.
“I kind of reflect back to what the mayor always said at the swearing-in on how we’re a family, so I didn’t come up here with any big prepared speech. I just wanted say thank you to everybody that’s here.”
Since 2015, the department has hired 33 new police officers, had 21 promotions in the command ranks and 11 lateral movements between the patrol ranks, and six officers with more than seven years seniority have left the department, Petri said.
He also said the city basically has a new police department. With Petri’s title change, a new deputy chief for the police department will be decided in the near future.
In his farewell speech, Voltattorni thanked his wife, two daughters and Petri who have been by his side for 32 years as he worked in the department.
“All the guys in blue, your picture was on the background of my desktop and everyday I looked at that knowing that I’m here to do a job, not disappoint you guys, and to represent you guys the best that I can. My entire time up there, all I was concerned about was doing the department proud and doing the city proud.”
Mayor Daniel Paletko said Voltattorni would be missed and that he has left the city and Police Department in “excellent hands.”
“I have to thank the unions, the leadership — when we knew we were going to be having a changeover when Chief Lee Gavin was retiring we knew we had to organize this because so many of our police officers are so new,” Paletko said.
“The union and leadership stepped up and said, ‘Mayor, here’s our plan that we want to institute to ensure good leadership, training and succession.’ We took that plan to city council, they approved it and we’re in the process of continuing to institute it.
“What you did in the department, you have to be very proud, Chief Dan, because they really are a great group. When you look over there, one thing you see is diversity. Congratulations for everything you’ve done for the city of Dearborn Heights. You served us proud.”
By mid-2020 the Police Department will have another police chief because Petri also plans to retire, but is next in line. Petri became a deputy chief in 2017, investigate services captain in 2015 and police officer in 1988 after starting as a cadet in 1987.
He gradated from the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, earned a public administration master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Madonna University.
Voltattorni was sworn in as chief last November after beginning his career in law enforcement in 1987 as a police cadet and serving as a patrolman, Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force officer, Uniform Division lieutenant in charge of special investigations, Tactical Response Unit commander, supervisor of the Department’s Directed Patrol Unit and Uniform Division captain in 2013. He was elevated to deputy chief in 2017.
When Gavin announced his retirement after 10 years in October 2018, Voltattorni took over as chief. Gavin thanked Voltattorni during a Nov. 12 City Council meeting for his dedication.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])