The Intersection: Southfield Police Department Working to Put Out Fires Before They Start

Peace group holds vigil in Southfield to remember those killed by gun violence, support police department.

Dozens of people hold flickering white candles on a stretch of lawn near Southfield’s police department. In the backdrop, the setting sun reflects off the golden windows of the city’s highrises. This is a vigil hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force to remember those killed by gun violence, and to shed light on the efforts of the Southfield Police Department.

Laura Herberg / WDET

“I tell people in Congress all the time there are some best practices in America and I name Southfield every time,” says Congresswoman and former Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, on stage at the vigil.

The city’s police department may not fully reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the city, admits Lawrence, but she says it makes up for that with compassion, professionalism and training. According to the city’s website, officers in the Southfield police department speak seven different languages.

“And I can tell you when a police car pulls up, we’re not looking to see the color of the skin of the officer. We’re proud and we feel safe because our own have shown up to take care of us,” says Lawrence.

During the ceremony, state Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Lathrup Village), presents a “special tribute” to the Southfield Police Department.

“In the wake of recent events, may they know our pride in their exemplary service and our prayers for their safety and security each and every day, well into the future,” says Gregory as he hands off the award to Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins.

Laura Herberg / WDET

“I challenge anyone to find a police department in this country that exceeds the amount of policing programs that we have in the City of Southfield,” says Hawkins to the crowd.

The department puts special community police officers in the neighborhoods, works with a citizen review board, and hosts a program called “Coffee with a Cop,” just to name a few initiatives.

Hawkins says in the last 10 years, violent crime in the city has been reduced by more than 70 percent. “The winning formula,” as he calls it, is “a relationship and a partnership, a collaboration between the police department and the community members that it serves.”

Susan Gordon-Jackson is a long-time resident of Southfield. She says she often sees police at events and in the streets and admits she’s been pulled over for a couple of speeding tickets.

“They’ve always been polite to me and treated me like a citizen. So I appreciate that,” says Gordon-Jackson.

At one point during the vigil an attendee’s candle drops onto the grass. At first, no one does anything, and it looks as though the lawn might catch fire. But then one of the organizers runs over and stamps out the flame.

Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver says the city wants officers to de-escalate tense situations rather than inflame them.

In other words, they’re looking to put out fires before they start.


  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.