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Warren’s top cop Dwyer turns 60 in public service – Macomb Daily

What started as a young carpenter’s search for a winter job turned into a 60-year career in law enforcement and public service for Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer.

Dwyer, a graduate of L’Anse Creuse High School, was 21, married and working for his father as a carpenter when a newspaper ad for Detroit police officers caught his eye.

“I worked for my dad as a carpenter and we worked 12-14 hour days during the construction season, but in the winter there was no work to do,” Dwyer said. “I was looking in the classifieds for a job I could do in the winter and saw that Detroit was hiring police officers. I applied and graduated from the police academy on August 13, 1962.”

Dwyer began his career walking the beat in Detroit’s 7th Ward where, as Dwyer points out, boxer Joe Louis was born. He spent 23 years in the Detroit police working in vice, organized crime and narcotics and working his way up until he became a commander in 1981, reporting directly to the Detroit police chief. , William Hart.

“When I centralized narcotics in Detroit, I realized it was really important to have diversity,” Dwyer said. “We had a woman and a black officer in each crew, which was almost unheard of at the time. I’m trying to continue what I did in Detroit in terms of adding diversity.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer on the beat in Detroit early in his career. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

He was chief of police in Farmington Hills for 23 years, then became police commissioner in Warren from 2008 to 2010, a post to which he was reappointed in 2017. He served for eight years from 2011 to 2018 on the board of commissioners of Oakland County.

As a young officer, Dwyer was on patrol during the 1967 riots and the Detroit Tigers’ 1968 World Series victory. He worked narcotics when the notorious drug organization Young Boys Incorporated operated on city street corners and was part of efforts to crack down on heroin trafficking in the city.

Many officers who worked for Dwyer over the years went on to head their own departments. They point to Dwyer as a strong leader who supports and encourages his staff and is always up to date with the latest law enforcement tools.

Warren Police Warren Commissioner William Dwyer, foreground, at a press conference January 23, 2020. MACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO
Warren Police Warren Commissioner William Dwyer, foreground, at a news conference on January 23, 2020. MACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO

“He is a strength; he is a monument to law enforcement,” said retired Farmington Hills police officer Brian Bastianelli. “He was able to stay in touch with several generations and mentored and developed the next leaders. We used to call him kingmaker because several of his executives became leaders elsewhere.

Bastianelli came to work for Dwyer in 1996 after serving in the Grosse Pointe Woods police force. He started as a patrol officer and then became the training officer for eight years. He left the department for four years to work for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department as an undercover narcotics officer, then returned to Farmington Hills to become the sergeant in charge of the narcotics division.

He said it was Dwyer who came up with the idea to build the narcotics division by partnering with federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and that he was a leader who worked to ensure his staff was well trained and prepared for any situation. Bastinelli said he continues to use many of the leadership skills he learned from Dwyer.

“As a training officer, he sent me where I needed to go to improve in my job and he did that at every level,” Bastianelli said. “We had the best equipment and were well paid and Chief Dwyer was always working to partner with other entities that could make us a better department. I believe Farmington is still one of the few police departments to have three full-time officers assigned to the DEA.

Plymouth Township Police Chief James Knittel, who began his career in Farmington Hills under Dwyer, said Dwyer’s work in the narcotics field was well known.

“He’s known as the godfather of narcotics investigations,” Knittel said. “He put together the task force of local and federal officers and I know he did that in Warren as well. You see a lot of police departments these days consolidating their resources and that’s exactly what he’s done with narcotics. I think he was ahead of his time with that.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer circa 1978 in his office.  (PHOTO SUBMITTED)
Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer circa 1978 in his office. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

Dwyer was instrumental in creating Macomb’s Federal Narcotics Enforcement Team (FANTOM) in 2019. The agency combines agents from Warren, Chesterfield Township, Sterling Heights, Clinton Township and from the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office with three DEA agents.

“He is so good at building teams; he made Farmington Hills a special police department in so many ways,” Bastianelli said. “He doesn’t like the status quo and that’s what I liked about him.”

Dwyer sees its responsibility as ensuring its officers have the tools and training they need to serve citizens well.

“A big part of good police work is building good relationships,” Dwyer said. “Everything I’ve done has been a team effort and anyone who thinks they can run a department without their team being 100 per cent behind them is wrong.”

As Warren’s police commissioner, Dwyer added body cameras for his officers and worked to obtain his department’s state accreditation from the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission. More recently, it added training that will help officers communicate more effectively with Deaf, Partially Deaf and non-English speaking citizens.

Warren Mayor James Fouts recalls that when Dwyer began his second term as police commissioner in 2017, he discovered several unused doses of NARCAN, which is used to treat opioid overdoses, and did not was quick to ensure that its agents were trained in how to administer it so that it could be used effectively.

“He told me that by making sure our officers had NARCAN and knew how to use it, we might be able to save lives,” Fouts said. “I truly believe he is the best police commissioner Warren has ever had.”

Berkley Director of Public Safety Matt Koehn and Knittel both began their law enforcement careers as 19-year-old Farmington Hills cadets. They credit Dwyer for giving them an opportunity and teaching them the importance of relationships with community members.

“Community policing has become kind of a buzzword now, but Chief Dwyer was a strong supporter of community policing before it was a thing,” Knittel said.

Koehn said he was working to improve community policing at Berkley. He is following Dwyer’s lead in Warren and is in the process of getting body cameras for his officers and state accreditation for his department.

“I think the most important thing I learned from Commissioner Dwyer is to look at the big picture,” Koehn said. “He really developed community policing in Farmington Hills and created an advisory committee so we could get public input.”

Knittel also said he took a page from his former leader’s book in terms of maintaining a strong relationship with the community.

“He put citizens first,” Knittel said. “If someone called and there was a problem, that was our problem.”

Over the years, Dwyer has served on numerous law enforcement commissions, task forces and associations, including the Governor’s Cabinet on Crime in 1989. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of the Association of Chiefs of Police from Michigan; the Collegian Award from Wayne State University; and the Crime Stoppers of Michigan Police Executive of the Year award in 2010.

Dwyer pays tribute to his staff in the departments where he worked and the support he received from local government and community members.

“When I graduated from the academy in 1962, I didn’t think I would stay in law enforcement until 1987,” Dwyer said. “But I was blessed with good health and I stayed focused and I’m here. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 60 years.