From left, Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Detective Bryan Ford, Lt. Thomas Shimko and Farms Mayor Louis Theros take part in a retirement celebration for Ford and Shimko July 14 at Pier Park in the Farms.

From left, Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Detective Bryan Ford, Lt. Thomas Shimko and Farms Mayor Louis Theros take part in a retirement celebration for Ford and Shimko July 14 at Pier Park in the Farms.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Retired Farms Public Safety officers brought dedication and diligence to their work

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 21, 2022

 Bryan Ford and his wife, Melody, recreate the photo that was taken of the couple when Bryan Ford joined the department in 1995.

Bryan Ford and his wife, Melody, recreate the photo that was taken of the couple when Bryan Ford joined the department in 1995.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

 Retired Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Lt. Thomas Shimko stands in front of a patrol vehicle at Pier Park.

Retired Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Lt. Thomas Shimko stands in front of a patrol vehicle at Pier Park.

Photo provided by Thomas Shimko

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — For the first time in decades, two Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Department veterans won’t have to worry about getting a call to come in at the last minute during the holidays to handle an emergency.

After both serving in the Farms for more than 20 years, Detective Bryan Ford and Lt. Thomas Shimko retired this summer.

Shimko’s last day was June 10. The 62-year-old Grosse Pointe Woods resident spent 23 years and three months with the department. Before he came to the Farms, Shimko, who grew up in and around Hamtramck, worked for the Hamtramck Police Department for two years and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department for four years.

He said his older sister, a retired Detroit Police officer who started her career in the 1970s, inspired him to go into the same field. Shimko said he also has a younger brother who’s a firefighter and is slated to be promoted to lieutenant at the end of this year.

Shimko moved to Grosse Pointe Woods in 1992, and his two daughters — now in their mid-20s — grew up there and attended the Grosse Pointe Public School System. Living so close to his job had advantages when they were growing up.

“I got to see them go to school,” Shimko said. “I got to walk them to school. I got to be involved in the community. A lot of people knew me.”

He said he would sometimes ride his bike to work, because he only had a 2-mile commute.

“I know almost every business on Mack (Avenue) and Kercheval (Avenue),” Shimko said. “That’s just community policing — you have to know the streets and the people. And I’d drive through neighborhoods with the windows down and talk to people.”

Ford and Shimko’s careers, in many ways, overlapped. Both served together on the Eastern Wayne County Special Response Team — the department’s equivalent of a SWAT team — for almost nine years, Shimko said.

Shimko and Ford both served together in the detective bureau for about three years.

“You really could take these cases and resolve them,” Shimko said. “The victims got made whole somehow. It was a very satisfying job.”

Shimko praised Ford for his skill and dedication to the detective bureau. Among other things, Shimko said Ford was an expert at collecting fingerprints and not only organized the property room, but also digitized the contents.

“He’s one of the best detectives they had for the longest time,” Shimko said.

In addition, Shimko said of Ford, “He’s one of the nicest guys I know.”

Shimko only left the detective bureau after he was promoted to sergeant in 2018 and became a shift supervisor. In 2019, he was promoted to lieutenant.

“Tom’s best quality was always knowing how to talk to people and put them at ease,” Public Safety Director John Hutchins said.

Some of Shimko’s proudest accomplishments included being appointed fire inspector in 2004, serving on the Special Response Team and with the detective bureau, and starting a program in which public safety officers would install smoke detectors in residents’ homes for free — not just for seniors, but anyone.

“I don’t care how old you are — we’ll put them in,” Shimko said. “I thought that was a good thing to do.”

That level of care and service exemplified Shimko’s career, according to those who know him.

“If they called for help, I knew they needed it,” Shimko said. “I don’t know how many flat tires I changed. I think being a police officer — that’s what you’re supposed to do. If they call us, we’re going.”

Over the years, Shimko acquired a folder full of thank-you letters from people he helped.

As a licensed builder, Shimko has plenty of work options in retirement. He said he’d also like to do more traveling — he’s from a large family and has a sister in Florida and a sister in Arizona. Although he said he wants to do something different now, his decision to retire wasn’t easy.

“I’m going to miss the residents and the people I worked with,” Shimko said. “They’re some of the best people I’ve ever known.”

Ford, whose last day was June 30, served for 27 years with the Farms Public Safety Department, starting his career on March 15, 1995. Although he now lives in Clinton Township, Ford, 50, grew up in Harper Woods. His father, Gary Ford, worked for the Harper Woods Police Department, where he was a detective, sergeant and finally chief of the department for roughly 10 to 15 years.

“I remember going to the station to visit him because we lived (nearby) on Danbury Lane,” Ford said. “He was a role model to me, so I decided to go into law enforcement.”

Ford and his wife of 26 years, Melody, both went to Grosse Pointe North High School but didn’t know each other then. They met each other on a blind date at Ye Olde Tap Room in Detroit, on the Grosse Pointe Park border, and have been together since then. They have a son and daughter who are both in college.

Some of the highlights of Ford’s career included receiving the Valor Award from the Hundred Club of Detroit and a departmental lifesaving award for saving a suicidal man in 2004 who was trying to end his life by using a knife to cut his throat. Ford was able to grab the knife from the man and apply pressure to the wound; the man recovered from his injuries because of Ford’s actions.

He also successfully worked on several high-profile cases, including the 2015 murder of interior designer Daniel Clancy at his Farms home. Clancy was able to share with then officer Thomas Dionne that his assailant was someone named “David” before he lost consciousness. Ford was able to identify and track down Clancy’s assailant, who was found to be at a local hospital being treated for a drug overdose. The assailant, a handyman whom Clancy had hired to clear his snow, was eventually convicted of murder.

In 2019, Ford and Detective Roger Wierszewski were tasked with investigating a wild assault with intent to murder case that started with suspects in multiple vehicles chasing each other in Detroit and ended with the suspects crashing through the Pier Park front gate, shooting at each other and chasing each other through the park.

“It was like a movie,” Ford said of the case.

At press time, two people had been charged in the incident and police had identified a third person of interest.

Ford, who said he might do fraud investigations for insurance companies in retirement, proved to be a quick study when it came to the type of digital police work that cracks many cases these days. He used those skills successfully in a case involving the theft of three iPads from Grosse Pointe Academy circa 2014, tracing one of the devices to a home in Dearborn, where police recovered the iPad along with almost $90,000 in cash that had drug residue on it. Ford was able to recover all three of the iPads, one of which had been sent by one of the suspects to someone in Jordan.

“Being a detective has definitely made me a better police officer,” Ford said.

Ford also remembers being called on a medic run to the home of an older Farms woman who had collapsed.

“I asked if she’d eaten anything,” Ford recalled. “She said she wanted poached eggs. She taught me how to make poached eggs. I made her a plate and put myself back in service (on the road).”

Ford said he was retiring to spend more time with family — including helping his parents, who now live down the street from him.

Like Shimko, he got into public safety out of a desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Ford said he liked “being able to protect and serve the community and provide residents with the reassurance the police department is there for them. I got into this job to help people through whatever problems they may have, be they criminal or medic runs.”

Colleagues said Ford achieved that goal.

“Bryan is an all-around nice guy — conscientious, thorough,” Hutchins said. “He took his time with people.”

Shimko and Ford had the kind of people skills that made them great at their jobs, whether they were investigating a case or helping a resident in an emergency.

“Both are very easygoing, affable guys,” Hutchins said.

Not surprisingly, Hutchins said the department has “some big shoes to fill” with the loss of Shimko and Ford.

“We are fortunate to be in a community where we have such longstanding public safety officers,” Mayor Louis Theros said. “These two gentlemen exemplify the exact type of public safety officer we want. They are both wonderful (people), in addition to being fantastic public safety officers.”