Council approves Berg as police chief

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 26, 2016

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights Police Capt. John Berg — who has served as interim police chief for several months — was formally approved to become Chief Berg for the long haul at the April 19 Sterling Heights City Council meeting.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved City Manager Mark Vanderpool’s recommendation that Berg be selected from among three top job candidates to replace former Police Chief Michael Reese, who retired from the position in December.

The three candidates, who all work at the Police Department, were Berg, Capt. Dale Dwojakowski and Capt. Dave Smith. According to Vanderpool, a testing agency was used to pick the top candidates, and the top three were assessed by a panel that included himself, Assistant City Manager and Human Resources Director Walter Blessed, and the city attorney.

In the end, the city recommended Berg, a candidate who has served while being interim chief for five months and who has been a “stabilizing force” during a period of hiring and retirements, according to officials.

“He has a wealth of command and leadership experience in all divisions and bureaus of the department, including administration, operations and investigations,” Vanderpool added.

Berg is a Wayne State University graduate who trained at the FBI Academy and at Eastern Michigan University’s School of Police Staff and Command. He has worked at the Sterling Heights Police Department for around 27 years, starting as an officer in 1989 and getting promotions to sergeant in 1995, lieutenant in 2000 and captain in 2009.

Following news of Reese’s retirement plans, the city announced in November that Berg would be picked to be interim police chief. The council’s April 19 vote to make Berg the long-term chief took effect the following day, April 20.

Before the council’s vote, Dwojakowski welcomed and praised Berg and said he has been friends with Berg for many years.

“The testing was grueling, and it’s finally come to an end with your nomination tonight,” Dwojakowski said. “I’m one of the few that is not retiring next year. So I’m here for the long haul. John, you’re stuck with me, so, moving forward, starting tomorrow, I look forward to many years working together.”

City Council members also had favorable things to say about the decision.

Councilwoman Maria Schmidt said she has “complete confidence” in the selection and hopes that people rally around the new chief.

“He’s worked in every department and in so many capacities that he’s familiar with, and I think that helps in itself,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Romano loosely borrowed a phrase attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt and defined Berg as someone who “walks softly, but he carries a big stick.”

“Who is John Berg?” Romano said. “He’s the quiet guy, but he gets the job done.”

Mayor Michael Taylor said he was happy the process played out like it did, and he praised Berg for his leadership skills.

“It came as a surprise to me when Mike (Reese) retired, and you’ve handled it gracefully over the last several months,” Taylor said. “You’ve handled the process that’s been very difficult gracefully. And I think it’s a testament to your strong leadership.”

After the vote, Berg said he was honored and humbled. He called the Sterling Heights Police Department one of the most respected police departments in the country, and he thanked the council, city administrators, the community, his family and the people he has worked with.

“We have many challenges to face as we rebuild the department through the succession process,” he said. “I know that because of these dedicated officers, we will come out of this a more professional, proactive police department and continue to be the model of policing that other departments strive to be and that our citizens have come to deserve and expect.”

The salary for the police chief is $118,422.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2800.

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