MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Following the recent departure of Muskegon Heights Police Chief Lynne Gill, the department has brought in Dr. Joseph Edward Thomas Jr. as interim Chief while they search for a full-time replacement.
FOX 17 had a chance to speak with Dr. Thomas Thursday morning a meet-and-greet to discuss his new role in the community.
Dr. Thomas said that he has ruled out the possibility of becoming the full-time chief of police in Muskegon Heights, but said he will play in active role in finding a permanent replacement. He comes to the area with a worldly past, most recently doing security consulting work in Palestine.
The interim chief has grand visions for the Heights, speaking about its current situation: "I think that it's time for Muskegon Heights and other cities...to go through a Renaissance, a rebuilding". He articulated that this change will not come through more stringent police activity, but by working closely with the community in more non-traditional police roles. "I think that their behavior and tolerance for unwanted activities and violent crime will have to be changed, and you don't do that by force and by going to the media and pontificating on that subject. You do that through training, education and partnership."
While Dr. Thomas didn't spend much of Thursday's meeting discussing the specifics of how the department will adjust its policies, he offered his thoughts on how the way the public views law enforcement needs to evolve.
"There are some things that we are going to be looking at, like going through some culture changes on how we police are gradually going to re-introduce back to the public with a true community policing concept," he told the small crowd. "We're going to have a different belief and a different value in this city about crime, and the bad people need to know that. We're not going to do it through force. We're going to do it with the public."