Clinton Twp. police chief's death from COVID complications 'to leave a big hole'

Clinton Township — Police Chief Fred Posavetz died Monday from COVID-related complications, the township supervisor announced in a letter to staff.

"It is with a heavy heart that I share this sad news," Supervisor Bob Cannon wrote in sharing the news that the chief had died at age 64 "from complications due to COVID-19."

Fred Posavetz, left, with Sgt. Tom Terzo, addresses Clinton Township police officers shortly after being named the department's chief in April 2007.

"We are shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of our beloved co-worker, long-time police officer and public servant of the Township," Cannon wrote.

Posavetz had been ill and diagnosed with COVID since Feb. 12. He had been airlifted recently to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor for treatment on a special ECMO machine.

"But they were never able to get him off the ventilator," Cannon said.

Posavetz's passing leaves the department he led for 14 years in flux.

"Replacing him will be difficult," Cannon said. "I can't name an acting chief until we treat his passing with the respect it deserves. Two of his top captains have been dividing up duties, but both of them are scheduled to retire soon.

"Fred was himself scheduled to retire on June 1," Cannon said. "This is going to leave a big hole."

Posavetz began his career with the Clinton Township police department in April 1980. He was promoted to sergeant in March 1991 and in July 1996 was named captain of the road patrol, special investigations division, criminal investigations division and support services. He was promoted to chief in April 2007.

"Fred was exactly what you would want in a police chief — an effective, dedicated, compassionate, and non-judgmental leader," Cannon wrote. "As Chief, he was always proud to promote and swear-in new police officers. He always emphasized the positive qualities of each officer, and thanked the families for what would be their child’s next 25-years of service to the community."

Cannon said Posavetz introduced a K-9 unit to the police department and was the township's first K-9 training officer. 

Among his other accomplishments, he graduated from the FBI National Academy and was a member of the FBI National Academy Associates training curriculum for the Michigan chapter.

Posavetz also served as president of the Macomb County Chiefs Association and was a founding member of the Clinton Township Police Department Honor Guard. He also served as grand marshal of the 16th Annual Gratiot Cruise in 2018.

That same year, he received a traffic safety award from the Transportation Improvement Association.

“Fred was a remarkable law enforcement leader and friend," Jim Santilli, the association's CEO, said in a Monday statement. "He was always willing to go above and beyond to improve public safety, even if challenges were present, because he was highly committed to serving people. Fred loved Clinton Township and Macomb County, and will always be remembered in our hearts."

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel also expressed his admiration for Posavetz and his condolences.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend Fred Posavetz," Hackel said. "As a leader in the law enforcement community, he was admired by many, and he was revered by those of us who knew him personally. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family."

On a personal note, Cannon recalled "golfing, going to Tiger games and parties with our wives." Professionally, he described Posavetz as working with the energy of a teenager and making the 94-man police department run like a "well-oiled" machine.

Cannon said the township continues to practice all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended safety protocols. While there have been others in the police department who have tested positive for COVID, no outbreak has been linked to Posavetz's illness, he said. Cannon couldn't estimate how many officers have been diagnosed with the virus.

Posavetz is the latest Metro Detroit law enforcement officer to become seriously ill or die from COVID-19 complications.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon died Dec. 17 of COVID-19, and his brother, Highland Park Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, spent 71 days in the hospital after contracting the virus.

A Wayne County jail commander died in May and two deputies and two doctors who worked at the jail died after contracting the virus.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN