Police captain ‘excited’ to take on new role as chief

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 19, 2020

 Ferndale Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo, left, and Capt. Dennis Emmi, right, hold up a framed certificate from the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission Oct. 12. That same day, Ferndale announced that Emmi would take over for the departing Palazzolo as chief at the start of the new year.

Ferndale Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo, left, and Capt. Dennis Emmi, right, hold up a framed certificate from the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission Oct. 12. That same day, Ferndale announced that Emmi would take over for the departing Palazzolo as chief at the start of the new year.

Photo provided by the city of Ferndale

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FERNDALE — On Oct. 12, Ferndale Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo made it official that he was retiring from his position effective at the beginning of 2021.

That same day, Ferndale also announced that Capt. Dennis Emmi, a 26-year veteran of the Police Department, would succeed Palazzolo in his role.

A Ferndale resident, Emmi was hired in the city as a service aide in September of 1994. Over the next decades, he rose to the rank of captain and now chief, a position he said was never a career goal of his to achieve.

“I just thought I wanted to expose myself to everything I could professionally and take every opportunity that was sent my way,” he said. “I never refused an opportunity, whether it was SWAT or narcotics or honor guard or a detective promotion or sergeant. I always wanted to do something to break up the monotony, and professionally, this organization offers you a lot of opportunities to develop. So I took advantage of all of them, never with the thought that, someday, I’m gonna be chief of police. … I just wanted to focus on doing the best job at the positions I was doing at that time. Lo and behold, that’s the best way to end up getting promoted.”

Emmi was recommended for the promotion by City Manager Joe Gacioch, who said his service record and 20-year connection to the community and Ferndale as a whole made him the right candidate for the position.

“The integrity that he has is conveyed through the support that he has through the current chief, Palazzolo, through his work culture focus,” he said. “In interviewing the captain, it was clear to me that he supports the direction that the chief’s taking the department — culturally speaking — and he has ideas about carrying that forward and continuing to expand it. Continuity of culture was really critical.”

When he eventually takes on his new role as chief on Jan. 1, Emmi hopes to build regional partnerships with nearby communities such as Detroit, Royal Oak, Royal Oak Township and Hazel Park to become more connected and to lean on each other for resources.

Something the department has been working on, and wants to address even more, Emmi said, is expanding Ferndale’s use-of-force training. The future chief said it’s the department’s job to earn the trust of the community and build credibility so that when police are put in a position where they have to use force, the community knows that, based on the department’s track record, police “absolutely had to do that.”

“I want to open up our doors in the spirit of transparency and let people take a look behind the curtain and see what this use-of-force training looks like,” he said. “Let them feel confident that the goals of our training is not to use force; it’s trying to avoid using force, but when we do use force, then it’s absolutely necessary that we do take it very seriously. It’s a huge responsibility. It’s the greatest responsibility that any law enforcement officer has, is the authorization to use force to execute their duties. We don’t take it lightly.”

Emmi said Palazzolo has done a good job of preparing him to be the new chief, and that he’s excited for the opportunity.

“Obviously, I’m biased, but I think we got a really good agency here, and I feel like (Palazzolo’s) turning over the keys to a brand-new sports car because we put some really hard work in since he became part of the senior administration,” he said. “Going back to 2016 when he became the captain, we really put the pedal down on completely revamping our policies and really taking a big step forward into modernizing our policies and procedures and the way we do business. It kind of culminated with receiving our accreditation in October. I really do feel like he’s turning over a well-oiled machine, and I look forward to taking it to the next level.”

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