An Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy who spent the majority of his lengthy career protecting and serving this area said good-bye last week.
After donning the brown uniform and star-shaped badge on a daily basis for a little over 33 years, Deputy John Dobrowiak has retired. His last day was June 5.
“I don’t regret doing what I did. I’ve always enjoyed my job,” he said.
Dobrowiak began working for the sheriff’s office in March 1986.
He started out in the county jail and continued there through 1990.
After that, he switched to road patrol in Orion Township. He then worked in Oxford from February 2000 until 2008 when he moved over to Addison Township, where he finished his career.
Dobrowiak said he became a police officer because “one thing that I always wanted to do was help others.”
The most rewarding part of his job were those occasions when he was able to aid people in crisis. He did everything from administering CPR to evacuating an apartment building that was on fire.
At the scene of vehicular crashes, Dobrowiak always tried to provide as much comfort as he could to those involved, especially when they were teenagers.
“If they’ve never been in an accident before, it’s traumatic,” he said. “To a 17-year-old, it’s a big deal.”
He’s always tried to remind people that vehicles can be fixed, but sometimes people can’t, so whenever no one’s injured in a crash, “that’s the most important thing.”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Keith Weir, commander of the Addison Township substation, said Dobrowiak was “an excellent role model” for both “the new deputies” and “the senior deputies.”
“He was an extraordinary employee,” Weir said. “He was an extremely hard worker and very educated. And the day he left, he was the same (way). He never lost that drive. You don’t see that a lot in employees in general.”
“I’ve always tried to be a good officer,” Dobrowiak said.
Weir said Dobrowiak often showed up early for work, even on his last day. The sergeant told Dobrowiak to come in around 8:30 or 9 a.m. so they could go through his police gear together before he turned it in.
“I get here (at 8 a.m.) and he’d already been here for an hour,” Weir said. “That’s just the type of guy he is . . . He was always hanging around at the end of (his) shift, making sure everything was done properly. I never had to ask the guy for anything. He was just an example to everyone, including myself.”
Weir noted Dobrowiak “took on all kinds of extra duties” such as being the field training officer for deputies newly-assigned to road patrol and calibrating the preliminary breath test (PBT) devices for “the whole northeast quadrant,” which includes Addison, Oxford, Orion and Oakland townships.
“He would calibrate all the PBT (devices) from all the cars and substations. He handled that for years,” the sergeant said.
Over the course of his career, Dobrowiak was repeatedly honored for his good work.
He received a commendation citation in 1990 and the sheriff’s special commendation citation in 1995.
In 2004, he was honored as Officer of the Year, and two years later, he received the Sheriff’s Distinguished Service Award.
Dobrowiak’s safe-driving record was recognized in 2007 and in 2014, he received a lifesaving citation.
Dobrowiak enjoyed his time patrolling the northeast corner of the county, particularly Addison because it’s a small community, so an officer can really get to know the residents.
“Working in a bigger area, you’re not going to develop that same personal relationship,” he said.
More than 50 people attended Dobrowiak’s retirement luncheon last week. There was a mix of township officials, fellow officers and residents who came to congratulate him, thank him and say their good-byes.
“It was a very good turnout. I was happy,” he said. “I’ve always gotten along with the people (out here).”
“The citizens of this community absolutely love John,” Weir said. “He would meet with them for coffee. He would meet with them for breakfast over at Louie’s. (He did that) just to keep (his finger on the) pulse on what their needs were.”
The key to developing a “good rapport” with the public is simple in Dobrowiak’s mind.
“I try to treat everybody with respect” and folks respond to that, he said.
That’s his advice for new and young police officers.
“When you’re dealing with the public, don’t have an attitude. Treat everybody with respect,” Dobrowiak said.
He said it’s also important to provide accurate information whenever people ask questions and sometimes that entails doing a little research before you speak.
“If you don’t know (the answer), try to find out,” Dobrowiak said. “Nobody ever knows every answer.”
Dobrowiak, who will turn 55 next month, plans to spend his retirement in Florida. He and his wife of 25 years, Julie, purchased a home in Cape Coral.
Originally, Dobrowiak thought he would stay on with the sheriff’s office until he was 58, but he’s tired of dealing with Michigan’s brutal winters.
“I’m over the cold. I’m over the ice,” he said.
Dobrowiak plans to continue working in Florida, but only on a part-time basis.
“I haven’t really decided what I want to do yet,” he said. “I feel like I’m too young to completely retire. I still want to work, but I want to be in a warmer area.”