Residents split on Barry Township police chief

Barry Township Police Chief Victor Pierce. (Aug. 4, 2014)
Barry Township Police Chief Victor Pierce. (Aug. 4, 2014)

BARRY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After 30 years with the Battle Creek Police Department, Victor Pierce became the chief of the Barry Township Police Department four years ago.

Since then, it seems, his practices have divided the small community in southern Barry County.

Residents have criticized Pierce for having 34 reserve officers, who work in addition to the department’s four full-time and four part-time officers.

And there have been claims of excessive force.

“It stems from one incident that took place back in May at Tujax Tavern,” Pierce told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.

The tavern’s owner Jack Nadwornik says he was caught by police relieving himself outside of the building.

What happened next depends on who you believe. Police say Nadwornik resisted and charged him with a felony. Others believe Pierce’s department is guilty of excessive force fueled by what they say were too overzealous reserve officers.

The incident marked the limit of many residents’ patience.

The embattled chief was the center of controversy Monday night at the Barry Township board meeting. So many people were expected that the meeting was moved to the Delton Kellogg High School.

A meeting of the Barry Township board. (Aug. 4, 2014)
(The meeting of the Barry Township board at which many residents voiced their opinions of Chief Pierce. Aug. 4, 2014)

Public comments about Pierce lasted for about an hour and were mixed. Some people said they supported the chief, and some asked that he be fired immediately.

Due to insurance regulations, the board forced Pierce to put his 34 reserve officers on hiatus at a previous meeting.

Pierce says he stands behind the need for so many officers — who serve a community of less than 4,000.

Monday, some residents supported the large staff of reserves, and some said they were an example of Pierce overstepping his bounds.

Pierce listened as residents sounded off.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board went into an executive session, which was closed to the public. Board members then announced they planned a meeting with Pierce, at which point they may go into executive session again to discuss the chief’s contract and future with the Barry Township Police Department.

That meeting was initially set for Tuesday, but will be rescheduled because it was not posted on the township’s website 18 hours in advance.

The Barry Township board had previously asked the Michigan State Police to investigate Pierce, but MSP said it would not get involved, citing no evidence of criminal activity.

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