BARRY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Following criticism of his leadership of the Barry Township Police Department, Victor Pierce decided Thursday night to resign his position as chief.
Much of the controversy about the way Pierce ran the department centered around the 34 reserve officers he hired, which operated in addition to the department’s four full-time and four part-time officers. Some say that was too many for the community of less than 4,000. There have also been claims of excessive force.
Differing opinions have divided the small community in southern Barry County. At a township board meeting earlier this week, some residents voiced their support of Pierce and some said he should be fired immediately. In the end, the board decided hold a separate personnel hearing regarding Pierce.
The only item on the agenda for the Thursday evening meeting was Pierce’s personnel evaluation. The beginning of the meeting was open to the public, but the board then went into closed session to discuss Pierce’s status.
After that two-hour session, it was announced Pierce had decided to resign.
Pierce did not make a public comment, but his legal adviser did read a statement in which Pierce thanked the community for allowing him to serve them.
After the announcement was made, people in the crowd started to cheer, thanking the chief for his service.
Outside, it was a different scene. As Pierce was escorted out, 24 Hour News 8 was told, some people in the parking lot yelled profanity at him and some chased his car.
“It was uncalled for. All these people walking out here calling him every name you can think of,” said a woman who identified herself as May and said she was Pierce’s cousin. “I just can’t believe they are doing this to him. It’s like he’s being railroaded.”
“He made an impact,” resident Elise Turgeon said. “It’s a horrible day.”
She said the chief talked her son out of an overdose.
“My son is alive today because of him,” Turgeon said.
But others were glad to see Pierce go. They said his large force of reserve officers was like an “army” and it had not place in Barry Township.
“I feel justice has prevailed. The gentleman tried to override the township with military force. The citizens objected,” George Hubka said. “That’s what it came down to.”
Hubka is not a township resident. He said he drives through Barry Township regularly, and though he has never had any problems with the police department, he said he has read about residents’ concerns.
It’s not clear what will happen next at the Barry Township Police Department. The board said a plan will be released Friday.
The reserve officers were previously off the job due to insurance regulations. It’s unclear what Pierce’s resignation means for their positions.
Pierce took over as chief in the southern Barry County township four years ago after 30 years with the Battle Creek Police Department.