Michigan township rebels after new chief beefs up police force

police michigan

L.L. Brassier | Detroit Free Press

DELTON — Early morning May 10, Jack Nadwornik stepped behind Tujax Tavern, the bar and restaurant he has owned for 30 years in this small, western Michigan town.

Nadwornik, out drinking with friends for his 58th birthday, urinated in a corner of the empty parking lot because the bar was locked up.

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Within seconds, two Barry Township police cars and three officers — two of them unpaid reserves — confronted him as he was zipping up his pants. What happened next is up for debate: Police said he resisted arrest. Nadwornick said he didn’t, and a waitress who was leaving work agreed.

What everyone does agree on is the aftermath: Nadwornik had a broken hand from a police baton, bloody elbows, and he had been kneed in the back. He was handcuffed, jailed and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, a two-year felony.

His treatment outraged many Delton residents who know Nadwornik for his food drives at local churches. They’ve packed recent township board meetings, demanding a Michigan State Police investigation.

At tonight’s regularly scheduled meeting, critics will ask township officials to fire Police Chief Victor Pierce. The meeting is expected to draw so many people that they’ve moved it to the local high school auditorium.

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The ruckus has divided the once close-knit community.

“Everybody’s got an opinion,” said Joseph Barker, owner of Sajo’s Pizza Parlor, a popular eatery in downtown Delton. Barker has an opinion as well, but won’t share it. “No matter what I say, I’ll make somebody mad and lose business.”

Pierce’s critics say there have been other examples of aggressive policing lately, and question why Pierce needs nearly three dozen, non-certified reserve officers to protect a population of 3,900 with the most serious crimes generally theft and burglary.


The department also has two Humvees and two armored personnel carriers received free of charge from the U.S. Department of Defense for a township with only four full-time officers.

The Michigan Township Participating Plan, which insures the Barry department, warned in July that most of the reserve officers needed to be trained and then only used for special events.

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