By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the fifth grade, Jerrod Hart had already made up his mind about his future.
It was career day at school in Taylor, MI. where he grew up and a local police officer, “O’Connor was his name,” said Hart, came to visit his classroom.
“I remembered looking at his uniform and saying, ‘Wow I really like that’,” said Hart. “He looked crisp, he looked very professional, and he was well spoken. His interest was in helping people because at the end of the day, that’s what this job is about. That message really resonated with me in the fifth grade and from that moment on I knew that I wanted to be a police officer.”
On December 15, 2017, Jerrod Hart officially retired as the Assistant Chief of Police and Support Services for the Novi Police Department. Three days later he was sworn in as the Chief of Police for the City of Saline at a City Council meeting.
Hart found out he had gotten the job in a very “2017 way.”
“I’m sitting there a little nervous, people are texting me, sending me stuff, ‘Have you heard anything?’,” said Hart. “My daughter comes running out of her room and says, ‘somebody’s tweeting from the council meeting,’ so we watched it all play out. As the other council members voted the same way it was a very surreal moment, a very exciting time at my house, everyone was jumping up and down and was able to call family members and say, ‘Hey looks like I’m going to be offered the job at Saline.’ it was really cool.”
After spending all 26 years of his law enforcement career in Novi, steadily working his way up through the department, Hart was ready for a new challenge.
Before being hired as Chief of Police in Saline he was a Patrol Officer, a School Resource Officer for the School Resource Officer program that he started in Novi schools (which is still running today), a Detective, a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, and an Assistant Chief of Police.
“I’m very fortunate and proud of my history at the Novi Police Department and my performance and my education there,” said Hart. “There was a heavy investment in the employees in the City of Novi. That’s what I would like to bring with me here to the City of Saline, to really focus on the growth and development of all our staff member’s here and their areas of interest.”
For Hart, it’s always been about challenging himself, from being the first of five siblings to attend college to applying to new positions whenever they became available as he worked his way through the ranks of the police department.
In 1991 he graduated from Ferris State with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. He chose Ferris State because of the program they had for law enforcement. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, the last semester was the police academy.
“I wanted to go somewhere that made me marketable,” said Hart. “I received my education and police academy training at Ferris so when I graduated I was what was called certifiable,”
Police officers in the state of Michigan must be licensed by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES). This entails a test proving knowledge on laws in the state of Michigan in addition to other common police practices. With Hart already receiving police academy training, it was easy for him to find a job because departments wouldn’t have to pay for him to go to academy training.”
After he was sworn in on Dec. 18 Hart got right to work, riding along with his new officers that day.
“It was about building relationships with my new police family here and that’s what law enforcement agencies are,” said Hart. “It was starting to build those relationships, I’ve worked more 12/14/16 hour nights in almost two months than I have in a long time, just because I want to, who doesn’t want to know their boss? Who doesn’t want to know the priorities their boss has?
His latest challenge as Chief of Police in Saline will be within the department and the community, figuring out the nuances and difference between the two cities. One similarity, however, the city council saw was that his journey with the City of Novi started before it grew into what it has become and hoped to see Hart be there for Saline’s growth.
“The City of Novi is just over 31 square miles,” said Hart. “Saline is about 4.3 and still growing. As opportunities come to annex out of the township into the city, that’s exciting. To have a city grow not only in the land that’s already here and the businesses and new opportunities and new residences but new land. That’s exciting.”
One of the differences between the two jobs is that Hart will have more time to engage with the community.
In the short two months he has been on the job he has had citizens reach out to him simply to learn about their new police chief as well as reaching out himself to school administration and neighboring police chiefs and departments to begin building those relationships.
He recently attended Winterfest in Saline with his wife, driving from their home in Novi while they search for a house or land to build on in Saline.
“Not because I want to exude my authority over others,” said Hart. “I want folks to know who their police chief is and I want them to know that the police chief is engaged in the community. I want to fully immerse myself in all that Saline has to offer.”
“I want to share with everyone that the Saline Police Department is a very professional, engaged, police agency. There are wonderful, wonderful people that are employed as officers, dispatchers, and part-time help. We’re going to build on that success, we’re going to constantly improve.”
“I’ve never had anything that feels this right before in my profession. It just feels like a perfect fit for us, so in that sense, it’s been awesome to feel like this is home, our new home, which it is,”