Young man achieves dream of serving with Harper Woods police

 From left, police intern Jeff Powell, of Harper Woods, and Harper Woods police officer Michael Pineau prepare to go out on patrol.

From left, police intern Jeff Powell, of Harper Woods, and Harper Woods police officer Michael Pineau prepare to go out on patrol.

Photo by Sean Work


By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published November 24, 2017

 Powell has been working and volunteering with the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety since he was a child.

Powell has been working and volunteering with the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety since he was a child.

Photo by Sean Work

HARPER WOODS — Since he was a child, it was always Jeff Powell’s dream to be a police officer.

With dedication and hard work, Powell, who has autism, has found a place with the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety, his hometown police force.

“Jeff’s been basically a member of our department since he was 8 years old,” said Harper Woods Public Safety Director James Burke. “He would always visit us, and he would talk to the officers as they came in and out of the station. It started with giving him tours of the station, and he became more involved as he got older. The last couple of years he’s been formalized as an intern and is a great member of our team. He’s a hardworking and dedicated member of the team, and it’s a pleasure to have him onboard.”

Powell explained he had a passion for police work and was enthralled by stories of helping people from an early age.

“My aunt’s brother used to be a policeman a long time ago. I liked hearing him talk about being on the police (force),” said Powell. “I became an intern because of my relationship with the Police Department; for 11 years I would go over there all year long and in rain, snow or whatever. Most of my teachers told me to try with Harper Woods because of my relationship I had with them.”

Since becoming an intern, Powell has taken on a variety of duties and responsibilities, helping out with everything from routine clerical work to going out on patrols.

“I learned how police handle things and what they do on a daily basis. I usually get scheduled Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Powell. “I help with records and help at the court when it’s court day. I go on ride-alongs every other week. I like getting to do stuff like ride-alongs and being with the men. I love doing ride-alongs. I get to go out of the police station and out into the community and help others.”

Internships at the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety are usually reserved for those studying to become police officers, but Powell has achieved a sort of higher position through his years of service and care.

“We do internships for college students interested in criminal justice careers,” said Burke. “We frequently have them with us during the summer, but Jeff is such a pleasure to have around, he’s a part of our family now. He’s not here because of his condition; he’s here because of his passion and dedication. His being autistic is secondary to him really belonging here.”

Nor is it in anyway an honorary position. Powell recently helped apprehend a larceny suspect while out on patrol with one of the officers.

“He was with Officer (Kevin) Coates in the car as a ride-along. They had received information about a suspicious person around (a nearby) house that had a package stolen” said Burke. “(The homeowner) gave us a really detailed description, and Officer Coates and Jeff were on patrol, and Jeff recognized him from the description. He did an excellent job. The officers chased the suspect and made a successful arrest. This led to backtracking and tracking down some other stolen packages from other homes.”

Powell is proud of the work he does, and members of the department said they can’t imagine not having him as part of the team now. 

“He’s welcome to keep working with us as long as he wants,” said Burke. “He handles the front desk, he does various tasks for us, he does ride-alongs with the officers. He can remember more than I can most days. He’s a genuine member of the department, and we love having him with us.”

Powell’s mother, Diane Powell, said she is glad her son has been able to achieve something he has always wanted so badly. She said she is proud of what he has done.

“It’s mostly helping him to achieve a dream,” she said. “It’s something he’s always enjoyed. He collects police patches; he has hats and badges. He’s always loved everything to do with the police. As a mother, one of the most important things for you is having your kids achieve their dreams.”