By ZEINAB NAJM
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW — Police Chief Ronald Beggs resigned from his position effective Jan. 31 after serving just a little over one year, citing the city’s political environment in his letter to City Manager Douglas Drysdale.
The city is discussing its options for filling the position on an interim basis, and there isn’t a timeline for a permanent replacement.
Mayor Andrew Swift said the city has been very lucky to have Beggs for the last year.
“His dedication to community and public safety have made Riverview a better place to live,” Swift said in a statement. “He will be missed and I wish him all the best.”
Beggs became chief Jan. 11, 2021, following a unanimous appointment by the City Council.
“It has been my honor to serve the city of Riverview,” Beggs said in his letter. “It is truly one of Downriver’s best kept secrets. Although my tenure was brief, I met many wonderful residents who truly make Riverview a great community.”
His departure comes following his inability to hire a deputy chief position within the department, which may have contributed to the decision, although Beggs did not mention or elaborate on the topic in his letter.
“I believe that the city’s current political environment is such that my resignation will be the best decision for the community and me,” Beggs wrote. “It has been clear from my earliest days as your chief there was and remains a strong opposition to an external candidate holding this office.”
Before coming to Riverview, Beggs worked 25 years in the Dearborn Police Department, retiring as a commander.
At the time of his hire, Beggs taught budget and finance for police executives at Eastern Michigan University’s School of Fire Staff Command. He has previously lectured at University of Michigan-Dearborn’s criminal justice program for a few years.
Beggs did not mention retirement in his resignation letter.
“I am proud of the many accomplishments of the Riverview Police Department during 2021,” he wrote. “Lives were saved, critical equipment was obtained, and significant outreach was made to our community. I will work diligently to facilitate a smooth transition to whomever you choose to fill my position.”
During a Jan. 10, 2022, study session, the deputy chief discussion continued with questions being raised relating to the hiring process and promoting from within the department.
Discussions on the topic go back months, with City Councilmembers Chuck Norton and Sussie O’Neil asking questions during a council meeting on the hiring of a deputy chief from outside the department instead of within.
Typically, the city manager makes the decisions for hiring and firing city employees, former Councilman Bill Towle said. One candidate — not from the department — was interviewed for the position but has not been hired.
Drysdale said at a Sept. 7, 2021, council meeting that Beggs was evaluating staffing in the Police Department and it was Beggs’ recommendation to bring in and have someone as a deputy chief instead of an administrative lieutenant.
At the study session, O’Neil and Norton each read statements regarding the deputy chief position.
O’Neil said she continues to feel that an outside, high salary job does not need to be filled when Riverview has the least amount of police officers it has ever had.
“The position being filled was done against policy and it was being filled by one of Chief Beggs’ friends,” she said. “So, the hiring stopped because one person has that much power or maybe because the process was done wrong.
“I know many of you have stated that Chief Beggs has been very active in the community and very visible, that’s very important to a small community and I appreciate that, but I think you helped prove my point. He has time to be in the community and be a part of the community relationship, he does not need someone to help him with the daily operations inside the police department.”
Norton said that as for the topic of hiring a deputy chief, ultimately those decisions fall on the responsibility of the city manager and the police chief.
His statement also mentioned the recent retirement of a Riverview lieutenant.
“Beggs turned his resignation in less than 24 hours after city council received a letter from a recently retired lieutenant who had 26 years of service to our city,” he said. “This letter consisted of six pages of facts and opinions of why he decided he could no longer work within a department that had changed so drastically with a new chief in charge.”
During the study session, Swift began his comments reading a section from the city charter on the relationship of council to administrative service.
“Neither the council nor any of its members or committees shall dictate the appointment of any person to office by the city manager or in any way interfere with the city manager or other city officer to prevent them from exercising their free judgment in the appointment or employment of officers and employees in the administrative service,” the charter reads.
“Except for the purpose of inquiry, the council and its members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the city manager, and neither the council nor any member or committee thereof shall give orders or directions to any of the subordinates of the city manager.”
The police chief position became vacant after former Police Chief Clifford Rosebohm retired in November 2020 after 33 years of service. Drysdale said the process began in November 2020 when the city council authorized a large search for candidates with the help of the Michigan Municipal League.
A MML recruiter met with Drysdale and staff for a discussion for what criteria they were looking for, including qualifications and qualities. Of the 15 candidates who applied for the position, each was screened by the recruiter based on criteria provided by the city.
The recruiter went back to Drysdale and staff to review candidates over a conference call, but did not identify who each were but instead used numbers to differentiate between each.
Five candidates were selected for interviews and then Beggs was selected for appointment.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])