It’s the end of an era for the Oxford Village Police Department.
At a special meeting held the morning of Friday, Feb. 3, council voted 4-1 to accept Police Chief Mike Neymanowski’s resignation.
“I agree with a lot of people here – it’s time for a change,” he told council. “I’ve been in this position, boy, a long time. I’m blessed with that. I think I’ve accomplished things that I wanted to do.”
Neymanowski has served as chief of the village department since February 2000, following the dissolution of the joint, township-village police agency.
He submitted his letter of resignation to village Manager Joe Young on Feb. 1. It was short and to the point.
“It has been an honor and a privilege for the past 17 years to serve the fine citizens of the Village of Oxford,” he wrote. “It also (has) been a pleasure working with you and your staff for the last several years.”
The chief’s last day will be Tuesday, Feb. 14.
“I’m ready, guys. I really am,” said Neymanowski, who noted it’s “no secret” he’d been contemplating stepping down for a while.
Village attorney Bob Davis was directed to draft a resignation/severance agreement for Neymanowski. Council is expected to vote on it at the Feb. 14 meeting.
“I would hope each and every one of you would approve that for me,” the chief told council.
Neymanowski’s spent a total of 49 years in law enforcement. Thirty of those years were with the Detroit Police Department.
Shortly after his retirement from big-city policing, Neymanowski moved to Oxford and joined the joint, township-village department in February 1998. He spent two years with the agency as a dispatcher and officer before it closed due to millage failures, a series of well-publicized scandals that spanned years and the controversial tenure of disgraced former chief Gary Ford.
Neymanowski was made interim chief of the newly-formed village department in February 2000 and given the job on a permanent basis in September.
Following the acceptance of the chief’s resignation, there was an outpouring of gratitude, compliments and well wishes from council members.
“I just want to thank you for your service and for bringing the village police up to the level that it (is),” said Councilman Tom Kennis. “I respect your decision.”
“I just think Nemo was exactly what we needed following the Gary Ford debacle,” said Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth. “He has turned this community around 100 percent. He’s done a great job with the police department. I wish he could have stayed and got his 50th year in, but I’ll settle for 49.”
“I would like to thank the chief for his service and 49 years,” said Councilman Erik Dolan. “I understand it’s probably maybe a bittersweet situation, but I do appreciate the service to Detroit and to Oxford.”
“I agree with (Helmuth) wholeheartedly about Nemo stepping in after the Gary Ford incident,” said village President Sue Bossardet. “We fought long and hard to get our own police department and support it. (Neymanowski took on) that challenge and did it. So, I thank you for that.”
Davis spoke highly of the chief and the department as far as dealing with them when it comes to the village’s prosecutions.
“It’s been an absolute joy,” he said. “We have a very effective prosecution rate because of our officers . . . Officers are always present, well-informed, ready to go for trial. I never have an issue with respect to officers not knowing their cases. It’s remarkable how effective they are at the Rochester (district) court level.”
Davis said it’s been a “pleasure” working with Neymanowski and complimented him on how “well thought out” everything was when it came to handling prosecutions.
“We (set) some people straight, chief. We didn’t put them in jail,” he said. “You and I had an eye for those (people) who maybe we could salvage . . . We worked with some youth and we worked with some adults. And we did well together.”
Young has recommended to council that village Police Sgt. Mike Solwold be named interim police chief. Neymanowski told council when heard that, “it warmed my heart.”
“Mike has been by my side . . . a long time,” he said.
The chief believes Solwold is a “perfect match” for the position of Oxford’s top cop.
“He knows this community well. He knows this agency well,” Neymanowski said.
Davis was directed to draft an agreement for the interim position. Council is expected to vote on that at its Feb. 14 meeting.
Dolan declared “100 percent support” for Solwold as interim chief and beyond.
“I can say unequivocally right now at this point, even in the future, you’ll have my support for a permanent position,” the councilman said.
“It’s an honor,” Solwold told this reporter. “I’m going to do the very best that I can.”
He noted it’s always been his “dream” and “goal” to become chief someday.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen, quite frankly, this soon, but sometimes things happen for a reason,” Solwold said.
Solwold, who lives in the village and will turn 46 at the end of this month, has served Oxford as a police officer since the early 1990s.
The 1989 Waterford Mott High School graduate spent the first three years of his career as a reserve officer for the joint department while working as a counselor at Crossroads for Youth (formerly Camp Oakland) in Oxford Township.
He graduated from the Macomb Police Academy in May 1996 and became a full-time officer for Oxford later that year. He served as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)/school liaison officer for four years.
Solwold stayed on when the joint department closed and the village agency was formed. In 2002, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and has served as second-in-command ever since.
Solwold said he had the opportunity to “jump ship” and join the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office when it took over policing the township in 2000, but he decided to “stick around here” with Neymanowski in order to “help rebuild and bring some integrity back” to the department.
He recalled people telling him the village agency would close within a couple years, but “here we are 17 years later.”
“I think we’ve had a good run. I don’t have anything bad to say (about Neymanowski),” Solwold said. “I think he’s done a good job with our department over the years.”
During the special meeting, some council members made it very clear they have no intention of eliminating the village police.
“There has never been any conversation at the council level (about) doing away with that police department at all,” Bossardet said. “I believe that this council is totally behind our police department, that our council is totally behind Mike (Solwold) taking over as acting (or) interim chief . . . I just want to assure the department and the guys . . . that (dissolution) has not ever been discussed and I don’t anticipate it ever being discussed.”
Dolan echoed those sentiments.
“There is no discussion and I will never participate in a discussion about eliminating the police department,” he said. “I’ve said that from the beginning . . . I’ve said it publicly. I’ve said it privately to the chief and now, the interim chief, and I stand behind that.
“I think it’s important to make the community financially solid, so that the police department can continue to exist . . . I’d like it to grow and thrive.”