New Southgate police chief's own police record concerns some citizens

- Some Southgate residents are concerned after a new police chief with his own police record was appointed on Wednesday night – and they’re trying to put a stop to it.

"I'm calling for his resignation," said Tom Bagwell, a congressional candidate. "At a minimum, he should not be the chief."

Bagwell said he’s upset the City of Southgate appointed Brian Klonowski on Wednesday as the new police chief.

Klonowski was convicted of a 2004 assault when he was an officer for beating a woman he met at a party after she turned down his advances. He served 18 months of probation but did not serve any jail time.

Bagwell said this puts the public's trust in the police department at risk.

"With somebody with this kind of violent history, is he going to do the right thing?" Bagwell said. "Is he going to make the right decisions? It also reflects badly on the down river community and the local politicians to put somebody like this in a position of leadership."

Others who live down river share the same concerns.

"That kind of violent crime, the Supreme Court just ruled, can make you ineligible to carry a gun," said another resident. "This guy carries a gun, and in a few days he's going to be leading a lot of police officers who carry guns."

Klonowski was suspended from the police department for a year, but was brought back a few months later.

The new chief said he is a different person.

"I understand the unfortunate circumstances -- the embarrassing situation, and it was 12 years ago," Klonowski said. "I dealt with that on three levels -- criminally, civilly and departmentally -- and have attempted to put that behind me and attempted to increase my professionalism."

City officials said Klonowski came in first among other candidates in a written and oral exam.

The mayor and city council approved his new contract and said he's the best man for the job.

"Nobody condones what he did but everybody says that what he did, he paid the price for, and he has learned from it," said John Zech, city administrator. "He's apologized for it. He's gone forward and shown that it was something that happened one time and has never happened again."

Klonowski said as police chief, his door will be open to anyone who walks to talk.

"I have no problem speaking with citizens and giving them a chance to get to know me and trust me," he said. "I know I have some reputation to rebuild still and I will be glad to do that."

Bagwell said most police offers do a good job, and when they don't act appropriately, citizens have to call them out.

"There's a hesitation to call out the bad stuff that happens, or to call out officers that have a history of violence," he said. "When you have the lives of the public at hand, you need to be trusted. The public needs to trust they're going to do the right thing."

Some citizens are petitioning with a goal of collecting 1,000 signatures.

Scott Puritt is a long time friend of the victim, who said he was there the night of the incident.

"His demeanor that night and I still remember it very vividly was very tough guy-ish," he said.

Puritt takes us back to the night of the assault.

"He took a liking to my friend and didn't want to stop until he got his way," he said. "She refused and it just got very out of hand and out of control. ... He had her on the ground, he was on top on of her. My former girlfriend jumped on his back and shoved her thumbs in his eyes and that's what got him off of her."

Puritt questions how someone with a violent criminal record lead and hold everyone in a police department accountable.

"Upon the incident he had the gall to basically state that he was leaving and he was a police officer and there was nothing nobody was going to do," he said.

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