Faces changing, but not the commitment
October 20, 2010 - A changing of the guard occurred at last week's Oxford Village Council meeting as the police department honored a longtime reserve officer and celebrated the next generation of law enforcement volunteers.
|Protecting and serving for free – Oxford Village Police Reservists Corporal Keith Redlin, Sergeant Brian Schick, Corporal Jake Miller, Mike Smith, Mike Bono, Kaethe Davis, James Owens and John Chiera. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)|
For his 30 years of dedicated service, Reserve Commander Mike Bejma was presented a plaque as a retirement tribute.
"It was one of my happier moments," he told this reporter. "I was surprised they did it that way. I came in quietly, I thought I'd leave quietly."
Over the years, Bejma worked his way up through the ranks, going from officer to sergeant to commander of the reserve force.
Along the way, Sgt. Mike Solwold, second-in-command of the village police, noted Bejma earned much praise from citizens and numerous awards from the department.
Solwold recalled how Bejma was there at the beginning of his police career.
"When I started here as a reserve, Mike was actually one of the guys on the panel that hired me 17 years ago," he said. "I still remember him lecturing me out in the hallway, telling me how things were supposed to go in the department. I remember it like it was yesterday."
|After 30 years of service, Mike Bejma retired as commander of the Oxford Village Police Reserve force. (click for larger version)|
Originally, Bejma considered becoming a police officer in Detroit like his brother and uncle. But things didn't work out, so after he moved to Oxford, he decided to join the newly-established reserve force.
When he first started, Bejma spent his days riding with officers, while he worked the afternoon shift at Chrysler, the company he spent 32 years with.
His favorite part of the job was always "helping the people and the officers when they needed it."
One of his most memorable moments occurred when he and Jack LeRoy, who was a police sergeant at the time, investigated a break-in at a local church.
What they found was not a robber, but a bearded man with long hair sitting on a chair at the altar, wearing jeans, but no shirt, shoes or socks.
"The way the light hit him, you would have thought it was Jesus Christ himself," Bejma said.
Bejma hopes people realize just how important reserve officers are to the department and the community.
"It's a free service the community gets," he explained. "They're an extra set of eyes and ears out there."
The visibility of having so many reserve officers on patrol helps "deter crime," in Bejma's opinion.
"We had a gentleman one time that said, 'I never knew Oxford had that many police officers.' It happened to be Halloween and there were a lot of us working," he said.
Bejma leaves the 12-member village reserve force in the capable hands of Sgt. Brian Schick, Cpl. Keith Redlin and Cpl. Jake Miller.
"It's really exciting for me to take on this role as corporal which gives me the opportunity to bring on new recruits, to bring on new talent, to measure our results and to make sure that we are following our training and delivering quality service to our community," Redlin told council.
Redlin informed officials that during the month of September, reserve officers put in a total of 165.5 hours working special events, patrolling the streets on bicycle and foot and riding in squad cars with full and part-time officers.
To date, reserve officers have put in a total of 1,000 hours this year. "And we're proud of that," Redlin said.
Whenever and wherever there's a need for increased police patrols or an extra set of eyes in the village, the reservists are always there.
"Some of us will actually come in without our uniforms on and sit there in our personal cars just to keep an eye out," Redlin noted.
The reservists also perform a valuable public relations function. "We are ambassadors to the village," Redlin explained. "We are downtown most of the weekends and we're one of the first contacts that people (have while) visiting our community."
From greeting folks with a smile to helping them cross the street, the reserve officers make Oxford look good to visitors.
Redlin noted the squad has two new additions – officers James Owens and Robert Chupick, both of whom came from Clarkston when the tiny city dissolved its police department last month. They were reservists there, too.
"We're very fortunate to have both of these individuals with us," Redlin said.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.