Citing a divisive political environment that shows few signs of improving anytime soon, Police Chief Ronald Beggs announced his resignation.
Beggs took over the Police Department’s top position almost exactly one year ago — on Jan. 11, 2021.
Beggs retired from the Dearborn Police Department one year earlier as a command officer. He was Riverview’s unanimous choice to lead the department after the retirement of Clifford Rosebohm a couple of months earlier.
Beggs was the first police chief in recent memory to come from outside the Riverview Police Department, as past chiefs were all chosen internally.
The City Council contracted with the Michigan Municipal League to perform an executive search. A recruiter was assigned and met with city officials to discuss the position and to determine what qualities they were looking for in a candidate.
“A position was posted for a national search and we had over 15 applicants submit their interest,” said City Manager Douglas Drysdale shortly after Beggs was chosen for the job. “The recruiter pre-screened the candidates to narrow the list of candidates, and administration met to determine which candidates to interview.”
According to Drysdale, city leaders wanted to make sure the best candidate was chosen, which is the reason for casting a wider net. He said internal candidates were also considered.
But in the end, Beggs shined among all the other candidates.
He has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Eastern Michigan University, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and a certificate from Northwestern University’s School of Staff and Command Executive Management program.
As a commander, Beggs occupied the second-highest position in the Dearborn Police Department, which has 194 sworn officers, 144 civilian employees, and serves a diverse community of approximately 100,000 residents, with a daytime population that exceeds 225,000 people, a campus of the University of Michigan, a community college, a K-12 student population that exceeds 22,000 students, and is home of the Ford Motor Co.
As impressive as his resume was, and despite the fact that the City Council originally appeared to give their full support, the fact that Beggs had not been a Riverview police officer apparently did not work in his favor, as friction surfaced.
In his Jan. 4 resignation letter that he gave to Drysdale, Beggs said it was an honor to serve the city of Riverview, calling the community one of Downriver’s best-kept secrets. Although his tenure was brief, Beggs said he met many wonderful residents who made Riverview a great community.
But there was just one problem he wasn’t able to overcome.
“I believe that the city’s current political environment is such that my resignation will be the best decision for the community and me,” Beggs said in his resignation letter. “It has been clear from my earliest days as your chief that there was and remains a strong opposition to an external candidate holding this office.”
He concluded his letter by saying that he is proud of his many accomplishments in 2021.
“Lives were saved, critical equipment was obtained, and significant outreach was made to our community,” he said. “I will work diligently to facilitate a smooth transition to whomever you choose to fill my position.”
Mayor Andrew Swift said he and members of the City Council were informed about Beggs’ decision to step down through an email that came from the city manager.
“I am disappointed he is leaving, but I understand why he is leaving,” Swift said. “He was available to the community. He was involved in the Neighborhood Watch program. I think he has done an outstanding job. He had a high profile in the city. He will be missed, but we wish him the best.”
The mayor said that one of the reasons the council chose Beggs for the job is that they wanted a “fresh set of eyes” who could bring a different perspective to the department, and he believes that Beggs did exactly that.
Beggs told The News-Herald that he didn’t wish to elaborate on his reasons for leaving, other than what he stated in his resignation letter.
“I just feel that the local political environment being what it is, it was better for me to step down,” he said.
Last fall, Beggs sought to hire a deputy chief, a position the Police Department currently does not have. Beggs had an external candidate in mind, one he said was more than qualified for the position, but that proposed hiring met with stiff opposition, so much so that the matter wasn’t pursued and the status quo remains.
Unlike in several other Downriver communities, the police chief is an at-will position. He does not sign a contract with the city guaranteeing his employment for a set period of time.
Per the Riverview City Charter, the person holding that position is hired by the city manager, with City Council affirmation.
Drysdale said he got “indicators” from Beggs that he was considering resigning, prior to making it official.
“It’s been discouraging over the past few years, the interference with the day-to-day operations of our Police Department,” Drysdale said. “We were hired because of our expertise. Some council people indicated that morale went down because he was hired from the outside.”
However, Drysdale emphasized that no internal candidates were excluded during the selection process and that at the time of Rosebohm’s retirement, the council thought it was “a fantastic idea” to conduct a national search for the next chief.
Drysdale said he was pleased with the job Beggs was doing.
“There was a focus on community involvement, which is the thing we really liked about him,” Drysdale said. “I’m very disappointed to lose someone like that.”
Although Drysdale said it is a bit early in the process to say exactly what will come next, it’s almost certain that an interim police chief will be appointed until a permanent person can be hired. Although speculation is that the appointment would be a person currently serving as a lieutenant, that may or may not be the case.
“All options are on the table,” Drysdale said.
The city manager said that he also will need to meet with the City Council to decide whether or not they want to go the same route they did a little over a year ago when looking for a new chief.
As for Beggs, he said he isn’t certain about his next move, but does know that he is not ready to retire.