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Wednesday, April 10,2013

The chief is leaving

Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski reflects on nearly 26 years at the LPD

by Andy Balaskovitz
Szymanski (left) and Bernero. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

Wednesday, April 10 — Consolidating the Lansing Police Department into one building is the biggest goal she never accomplished, Teresa Szymanski said today, reflecting on her three years as Lansing Police chief.


“I would have liked to see all services in one building before I left, being unified and having everyone together,” she said today. “That’s been a little bit disappointing.”


Szymanski, 50, announced her retirement today after serving in the LPD for nearly 26 years. Her last day is April 20. She sat alongside Mayor Virg Bernero in his office this afternoon to talk about her decision with reporters.


“It’s time to move on to the next phase of my life,” she said.


The department operates out of City Hall and rents space for the North Precinct on May Street. It closed the South Precinct at Holmes Road and Cedar Street. Plans last year by Bernero to consolidate the LPD into the South Washington Office Complex, a former National Guard armory, fell through after City Council opposition about his proposing to spend police, fire and infrastructure millage money on design work for moving there. Szymanski once told City Pulse that consolidation plans date back to the Hollister administration.


Szymanski cited developing a “business watch” program (similar to a neighborhood watch), securing grants for the department and setting up a “DDACTS” program — which stands for Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety — in the city as some of her accomplishments. Bernero cited “things you didn’t see happen,” like negative encounters with LPD during the Occupy Lansing protests and when the Westboro Baptist Church came to town.


“The chief led well in tough times,” Bernero said. “She used the term ‘bittersweet’” about leaving — “for me, it’s just bitter,” he said, referring to missing her leadership.


Szymanski said she wants to stay involved in the Lansing community and is “looking at other employment opportunities.” She said she made the decision a couple of months ago.


Bernero said in a statement this morning that he’ll name an interim replacement before Szymanski’s last day on April 20. He said today he “can’t imagine” an interim will not come from within LPD ranks. He said he will work with the Board of Police Commissioners on finding a permanent chief.


“We’re blessed to have a wide bench of talented people,” he said of the department.


Szymanski leaves behind a department that had 229 employees at the start of this fiscal year and one that is restored of the 36 officers laid off in July 2011. Those layoffs were one of the biggest challenges during her tenure as chief, she said.


“It was very troubling for me,” she said.

As for a recent City Pulse cover story that revealed disorganization within LPD’s homicide division in its tracking of cold cases, Szymanski said Capt. Daryl Green is working on the department’s website “as a tool to get information out there and getting people informed” on the status of unsolved homicides. “We’re putting that together as we speak.


Bernero proposed hiring a full-time cold case detective as part of his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.


Szymanski said she knew she wanted to be a police officer when she was about 11 years old while growing up in Alpena in northeast Michigan. Family friends in the Detroit Police Department would visit to deer hunt. “I got interested in that at a young age,” she said.


She went on to graduate from Ferris State University in 1984 and took her first police job in Douglas, Wyo. before coming to Lansing.

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