New pick for Southgate police chief draws controversy

The Detroit News

Southgate officials have named a new police chief but the appointment is drawing controversy.

Brian Klonowski, a lieutenant who currently heads the Police Department’s detective bureau, was picked by Mayor Joseph Kuspa for the top cop job, Southgate administrator John Zech said. The City Council approved the recommendation Wednesday.

Klonowski, however, has a past conviction for assault.

In 2004, Klonowski was charged with punching a Romulus woman in the face, breaking her nose and fracturing her chin. He pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of assault and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, The Detroit News reported.

The police officer also was ordered to pay court fines and costs, serve 30 days on the court’s work program and 60 days on a tether in addition to completing anger management and alcohol counseling.

As a result of his conviction, the Southgate Police Department suspended him for a year. But Klonowski was back on the job earlier than expected when then-Mayor Dennis David reduced his suspension to 90 days.

Since then, Klonowski has risen through the ranks to become a sergeant and lieutenant, as well as attended law school, Zech said.

“His record has been excellent,” he said. “He’s taken his law training and incorporated that into his work. ... He did all of the things the court called for him to do and picked up his life.”

Klonowski could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night.

At the City Council meeting, members heard a reciting of a letter from the mayor that called Klonowski “an accomplished professional with 21 years of service to the city.” None of the council members raised objections to his promotion, according to a taped recording.

Reached for comment late Thursday, John Graziani, City Council president, said “all procedures were followed properly” regarding the move but referred further questions to other Southgate officials.

Some residents have complained to the city about the promotion, expressing concern about Klonowski’s charge, Zech said. But the administrator added that Klonowski ranked first in candidate testing by an outside agency. He also noted that the new chief has been an “exemplary officer” who handled numerous cases, including ones involving domestic violence.

While the assault was a “serious mistake,” Zech said, since then “he’s proved to the people of Southgate — the mayor in particular — that this was a one-time thing. He’s lived his life both on-duty and off-duty in such a way that there’s been nothing in the record that makes the mayor or myself ... think that this (promotion) shouldn’t occur.”