Thomas picked to be Muskegon Heights police chief

Salary negotiations to start below interim chief's current pay

Interim Muskegon Heights Police Chief Dr. Joseph E. Thomas, Jr. (Jan. 14, 2016)

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who has been serving as Muskegon Heights’ police chief on an interim basis all year has been chosen to take the job permanently.

The Muskegon Heights City Council voted to hire Dr. Joseph Thomas Jr. at a Tuesday evening meeting.

Thomas started as interim chief in January after former Chief Lynne Gill announced his retirement in December. Since then, his salary has been $70,000 per year. However, the city council decided Tuesday night that salary negotiations would start in the $60,000 to $65,000 range.

The city manager told members of the council that salary range is about 25 percent lower than cities of a comparable size and has not been updated for “quite some time.” Chief Gill was making $66,000 when he retired.

If Thomas decides not to accept the job, it will be offered to the council’s second choice, Michigan State Police Trooper Edward Viverette.

As he was interviewed before the council Tuesday night, Thomas said his one-year plan for Muskegon Heights included updating policies and repairing public trust.

“We need to rekindle that, because I do believe that Sir Robert Peel had it right in the first place: ‘The people are the police and the police are the people.’ We need to reestablish that,” Thomas said. “How do you treat people? How do you talk to people? How do you solve problems and how do you get along with the public?”

During his time before the council, Viverette said he grew up in Muskegon Heights. He argued stopping crime has to start with community engagement and education early in elementary school.

“You can’t wake up tomorrow and decide that you want to fight crime and you’re dealing with guys that are 17, 18 years old. They don’t have any respect for you,” he said.

The other candidate interviewed Tuesday was Sgt. Maurice Sain, who has been with the Muskegon Heights Police Department for 18 years.

–24 Hour News 8’s Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.