Woods hires new public safety director

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 10, 2015

 Newly appointed Director of Public Safety Bruce Smith stands with the mayor, council and administrators during the Feb. 2 meeting.

Newly appointed Director of Public Safety Bruce Smith stands with the mayor, council and administrators during the Feb. 2 meeting.

Photo provided by Grosse Pointe Woods

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The city’s new public safety director brings a lot of experience to the job and a passion for the public safety model.

Bruce Smith was appointed as the new director at the Feb. 2 City Council meeting, and he started in his new post on Feb. 9. He replaced Andrew Pazuchowski, who had been public safety director for four years before leaving last summer to start his new role as public safety director in Huntington Woods.

City Administrator Al Fincham has been serving as acting director for the last several months while the city conducted a search.

“Director Smith has a long and successful career in law enforcement, and in particular public safety, with more than 37 years in total and 25 years in a supervisory capacity,” Fincham said in an email. “Director Smith came highly recommended and came in No. 1 in the selection process overall with 10 candidates being interviewed.”

Smith is coming to Grosse Pointe Woods from Chesterfield Township, where he served as police chief for more than eight years. Prior to that, he had a long career with Oak Park as the director of public safety.

He has a master’s in administration and a bachelor’s in criminal justice. He also has extensive training and experience in all areas of public safety, as well as a number of professional affiliations in both police and fire operations.

His experience with Chesterfield Township includes serving as director through a $1.2 million renovation to build out the city’s police campus, according to information from Grosse Pointe Woods.

Smith also oversaw a combined dispatch that covered two police and two fire departments.

He’s excited to be getting back to a community with a combined public safety department. He noted that he once lived near the Grosse Pointes in Detroit early in his career, when he was a Detroit police officer.

“I spent the lion’s share of my career in Oak Park,” Smith said, adding that he met Pazuchowski in the 1990s during training.

They developed a friendship and used to have friendly debates on which department had the older public safety department.

“He’s convinced me that Grosse Pointe Woods was,” Smith said.

“I always loved the public safety concept,” he said. “It delivers the best bang for your buck for the residents.”

When serving as director in Oak Park, Smith said he did a study to determine the breakdown of work that a public safety department does. He said 60 percent of that work involves noncriminal incidents like traffic accidents. They spend 20 percent of their time on criminal incidents, 15 percent on medical runs and less than 5 percent on fire runs. 

A public safety department also benefits the community by making things more efficient, he said.

“I really believe that it makes a very well-rounded officer who can respond to any emergency,” Smith said. “You know everything that goes on in your community.”

Smith spent his first day in the department meeting people and getting to know the lay of the land.

As the new member of the department, he’s not planning to start making changes. He wants to put in the time to get to know the department.

“My job in the next six months is to learn everything I can,” Smith said.

Then, he said he will consider what, if any, changes need to be made.

He understands some of the major tasks facing the department in the future. He mentioned that they have a grant to remodel the cell block area, and there’s the possibility of a joint dispatch.

He knows the challenges communities face, including the financial difficulties that they are struggling with from the recession as they bounce back financially.

“We have to make sure that we’re managing the money that we spend,” he said.

Since he has experience stepping into a leadership role in a new department in the past, Smith said he is more comfortable this time around in coming to Grosse Pointe Woods.

“I always love learning new things … so this is just another challenge,” Smith said.

He also said the Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Department has a history of positive community relations.

“I love that aspect and I want to continue that,” Smith said.

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