By Rosemary K. Otzman
Sumpter Township Police Sgt. Chris McGlynn was among those present at the March 17 regular Belleville City Council meeting to praise the work of retiring Belleville Police Chief Gene Taylor.
It was Chief Taylor’s last council meeting and he received a plaque, a cake, and accolades from anyone who wanted to speak from the council table or the audience.
Sgt. McGlynn said there is great gratitude in Sumpter Township for what Chief Taylor has done every summer.
He said Chief Taylor cleans up the memorial at Graham Park each year and makes sure the flowers look good. Sgt. McGlynn said he and the whole police department appreciate the work.
Chief Taylor used to play basketball with Sumpter Police Officer Roy Graham, who was killed on the job in 1985 while responding to an “officer down” call from a Van Buren Township police officer. Taylor tends the memorial to his friend.
Mary Talaga, who has been a crossing guard for more than 50 years, said she will miss him “deeply, deeply.” Over the years he has checked on her welfare at home and at her crossing site.
Hal Berriman, a former Belleville police chief who will fill in as interim chief after Taylor leaves, said Taylor was a hard-headed union representative when Berriman was chief. And now that Taylor is chief, Berriman said Taylor told him, “That union’s driving me crazy.”
“There’s nothing bad I could say about Gene,” Berriman said. “Gene was one of the best.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jack Loria talked about “Gene and his big heart.”
“If you needed $20 and he only had $10,” Loria said. “He’d give you his $10 and then go out and get the other $10 for you.”
Mayor Kerreen Conley said in the dictionary Taylor’s picture should be where it says “fair.”
“He treats everybody the same,” she said, no matter what position that person holds. “Everybody is treated with respect and fairly.”
Councilwoman Kim Tindall said there are many things she and Taylor don’t agree on, but, “You can disagree and still get along. You’re somebody I still consider a friend.”
Former Councilman Brian Blackburn said Taylor has been a role model for his special-needs daughter.
“You meant a lot to her,” Blackburn said.
“You can tell from the people here and in the community you are highly respected,” Mayor Conley said to Taylor. “You have always given from the heart and we will miss you.”
Sumpter Police Chief Jim Pierce said he has spent 40 years in police work and the highest thing you can say about a person is, “He’s honest and he’s true.”
Taylor stood and told stories of his police work in Belleville, where he has spent all 37 years of his police career.
He said the Belleville department was part of the 255 incident when an airplane crashed at Metro Airport. The Belleville department got commendation from the State Legislature and the Michigan State Police for their assistance.
He praised his department’s seat belt program that was rated second in the state and he talked about getting extra food to feed families in need. He noted the new CERT program, revamping of the Reserves, a chaplain’s program, and the ongoing dissemination of red ribbons to curtail drunk driving.
He was grateful to Chief Mickey McLaughlin who gave him his first job, which led him to meet his future wife Elayne, a Sumpter resident, who worked as a police dispatcher for the city of Belleville.
“I am proud to have served the residents of this community. It’s hard to leave,” Taylor said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman