Wyoming public safety chief set to retire

Wyoming Director of Police and Fire Services Chief James E. Carmody
Undated courtesy photo of Wyoming Director of Police and Fire Services Chief James E. Carmody. (Courtesy City of Wyoming)

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ largest suburb is losing its top cop.

Wyoming Public Safety Chief James Carmody announced his retirement Monday morning.

Carmody, 65, told 24 Hour News 8 the decision wasn’t easy, but the department’s current leadership is very strong and has depth.

“(My decision) didn’t come without any trepidation or anxiety certainly, but it just seemed like good time to do it,” he said.

Carmody was named police chief of Wyoming in 2006. In his 12 years at the post, he’s dealt with the trials and tragedies many police chiefs face during their careers, including high-profile cases like the recent murder of Ana Carrillo.

The mother of three disappeared in September. Her body wasn’t found until the father of her three children, Andrew Hudson, pleaded guilty to her murder.

“There were people here in this building who were not going home until we found her body and were able to bring some closure to her family,” Carmody recounted.

He also remembers getting the call no police chief ever wants to get: that one of his officers was down.

It happened Jan. 29, 2015. Officer Frank Hartuniewicz survived his wounds.

“It’s one of those types of situations, you don’t shake that off very easily,” Carmody said.

These days, being a police chief is about more than enforcing the law. The way a department’s officers interact with the community they serve is under scrutiny.

Wyoming has a diverse population, with 68 percent of residents who are white, nearly 20 percent who are Latino and close to 7 percent who are African-American. Yet Carmody’s department has not had the racial controversies other chiefs have dealt with.

He says it’s all about communication.

“Going out and talking to people. Rather than wait for a problem to surface, go out and talk to people about potential problems or what their fears or anxieties (are),” he said. “People need to understand that we’re people behind this uniform first and foremost. We have the same desires, the same dreams, the same hopes, the same fears they have. How do we work together?”

Carmody credits past Wyoming chiefs for creating that culture.

Under his leadership, dialog between Wyoming officers and the community has grown, with programs like a more in-depth school liaison program and the New American Academy, which Carmody says brings in new residents from other countries to discuss issues they may be fearful or apprehensive about.

In 2013, Carmody assumed the role of public safety chief when the city’s police and fire forces consolidated.

Staffing and equipment has improved. Carmody found a way to reopen the shuttered Gezon Street fire station.

“That was a challenge, to say the least. But what I found is if you get like-minded people around you, it makes your job a lot easier,” he said.

Carmody will officially retire in April. City leaders say they’ll start their search for his replacement inside the department before deciding if they need to look outside.

Carmody says the planned process is a credit to his command staff.

“They could go outside,” said Carmody. “But they’re only going to find somebody different, not anybody better.”