“Every day, in every city and town across the country, police officers are performing vital services that help make their communities safer.” — Eric Schneiderman
The latest interview gives us an insight into the life of 57-year-old Grosse Ile resident and Police Chief, Joe Porcarelli.
What was life like for you as a young boy growing up on Grosse Ile?
I grew up on O’Donnell Drive before it was really built up. The area around us was heavily wooded, and I remember spending much of the time when I wasn’t in school wandering through the forest with my friends. We would come home for meals, but then be back outside again playing in the woods. To my mind, it was an idyllic childhood.
What are some of your favorite memories?
I really enjoyed the time I spent in school. Grosse Ile has a great school system with many extracurricular activities for an active guy like me. Also, because the student population is so small you get a chance to know your classmates very well and forge close bonds.
Another memory is going out to the Olympic size swimming pool at the Navy Base. I can recall watching the older kids diving off what I think was a 10-meter diving board. That huge pool and what seemed like a skyscraper high diving board were pretty intimidating for a young boy.
Probably my favorite memory, however, is something that would be very unlikely to happen today. To set the scene, I need to point out that I was interested in police work from a very early age. I watched all the cop shows on television, and I paid close attention to what our local police were doing in the community. To me it seemed that being a police officer was the most rewarding job you could have. Well, when I was in high school some police officers who were aware of my interest in law enforcement asked me if I would like to ride along with them in their police cars. I would show up at the police station before midnight, and they would take me on their night runs. After I got a chance to see these police officers in action, I was hooked — being a police officer was the only thing I wanted to do.
Where did your passion for law enforcement take you after that?
After high school, I majored in criminology at Eastern Michigan University. Upon graduation, I spent one year working for the Metropolitan Park Police Department and then another one and a half years with the Brownstown Police Department. Fortunately, I was able to come back home when a position opened up on Grosse Ile.
From a law enforcement perspective, what are some things that the public can do to help the police?
While police officers are trained to treat the public with respect, the officers must also be very careful. Ninety-nine percent of the encounters our officers will have will be with law-abiding citizens. However, officers can’t easily differentiate the law-abiding citizens from the 1 percent who are not law-abiding and possibly dangerous — and that can be deadly.
The public can help the officer in these encounters to keep everyone safe. For example, if you get pulled over it is best to keep your hands in plain sight — usually at the eleven to one o’clock positions on the steering wheel. Let the officer do the talking so that he/she can let you know what is needed. Drivers sometimes attempt to help the officer with the process by offering explanations, but that is distracting to the officer at a time when he/she is still trying to assess the level of threat. Don’t make any sudden movements without explaining to the officer what you are attempting to do, and then only after getting acknowledgment from the officer. The officer’s ultimate objective is to get everyone home safely that day.
Another way in which the public can help is to listen to your instincts and contact the police immediately if something seems suspicious. Too often, citizens see something that doesn’t seem right but are reluctant to call the police because it is late at night, they aren’t completely sure why they feel uneasy, or they want to take some time to think it over. The police department would rather have a citizen call so that something can be checked out and possibly prevented than need to do a criminal investigation after the fact. The Grosse Ile Police Department can respond to a 911 call within 3-5 minutes.
Is there anything else that you would like to relate to the citizens of Grosse Ile about our Police Department?
I would like to give the community an update on some of the technology and programs we have on Grosse Ile to keep our citizens safe.
Six years ago, we installed License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras at each of the bridges. The cameras merely take a picture of the license plate on a vehicle which can be used to determine if the plate is on the correct vehicle and when the vehicle crossed over the bridge. The camera does not capture who was in the vehicle, how fast the car was traveling, or how the car was maneuvering. We have used the information from the cameras to arrest numerous felons, exonerate two individuals from false charges, and identify a missing Alzheimer patient from Ohio. This equipment was purchased with drug forfeiture funds.
Citizens may have also noticed the E-lights that are installed alongside the traffic lights. A picture of an emergency vehicle lights up when an ambulance, fire engine, or police car run is in process. This allows us to alert citizens to be cautious.
All of our road cars have new infra-red heat seeking technology called Noptics mounted on our vehicle spotlights. Officers can scan an area with their spotlights and by looking at their car computer screens find someone who might be lost or hiding in the woods.
Finally, community members are well aware of our deer and coyote populations. The DNR has calculated the maximum population for a healthy deer herd for our island to be 60. We have had as many as 475 deer, which can be detrimental to our vegetation, to vehicle traffic, and to the health of the herd itself. Through a DNR approved culling program we have been able to reduce the deer herd to about 140. One hundred percent of the deer meat from this culling program has gone to a food ministry to feed the hungry in Detroit. Coyotes have also been a problem. They are becoming uncharacteristically bold and have begun hunting domestic pets during daylight hours. We estimate the pack at about 40 and have begun a trapping program to address the problem.
Any final thoughts that you would like to share with the community?
Even though I could have retired a few years ago, I would like to continue for a while longer because I love this community, and I love what I do. I consider myself a very lucky man.