ST. CLAIR SHORES — With more than two decades of experience in the St. Clair Shores Police Department, Steve Lambert was named the new deputy chief Aug. 18, three months after Chief Todd Woodcox was promoted, leaving the position vacant.
“He’s the perfect fit to round out the administration team,” Woodcox said of Lambert.
The pair was hired in on the same September day nearly 22 years ago, but Woodcox said they took different paths through the department, with Lambert serving in the narcotics, SWAT and traffic bureaus, and Woodcox moving through the undercover auto theft and training side.
“Putting us together really gives us a round overview of the entire department operations,” Woodcox said.
Former Deputy Chief Glenn Bowlin retired in September 2013. Woodcox took over the position in December but when former Chief Michael Walleman retired at the end of January, Woodcox had to fill the spot on an interim basis. Woodcox was promoted to chief in May, leaving the position of deputy chief vacant until now.
Woodcox said some of the delay in getting the position filled came from waiting for the Command Officers Association contract to be negotiated with the city. With those negotiations complete, that allowed for internal candidates for the top positions in the department to stay in defined benefit pension plans, instead of moving to defined contribution plans. As lieutenants, the pair was already earning defined benefit pensions.
“The contract had to be settled first before the city would entertain the idea of getting the deputy chief,” Lambert said. “Mainly, the most important thing is just to establish some continuity back to the Police Department because of all the changes and retirements. The top administration positions not being filled caused quite a void in leadership, and the Police Department has to have that in order to do its job more efficiently.”
“It’s really going to help us to move the department forward in a direction that will open us up to the city residents,” Woodcox said. “With one person, it was more just keeping our heads above water.”
Now, Woodcox said, he can begin investigating some programs he was hoping to implement, such as a citizen emergency response group that would be training in assisting the department in major disasters, and a citizens police academy, which he said several people have suggested implementing.
“Which I think is an outstanding thing to look at, but with just me at the helm, I had no time,” he said.
Lambert was formerly the head of the Traffic Bureau. Woodcox said the department is being partially reorganized and now the traffic division will be run by Sgt. Jenna Conrad; the division will fall under the overall leadership of Operational Support Services Lt. Tony Pietrzak.
Paul Plaza was promoted Aug. 18 to fill the position of patrol sergeant vacated by Conrad.
“I’m looking forward to working with everybody in the department to make it a better service to the community,” Lambert said of his new role. “I guess its extra special knowing the community which I grew up in, I’m able to serve at one of the highest levels.”
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