Ferndale police officer fired, chief retires after Local 4 Defenders investigation

Defenders uncover string of incidents at Ferndale Police Department

FERNDALE, Mich. – The Ferndale Police Department has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons over the past few months, and now the police chief has announced his retirement.

A Ferndale police lieutenant was suspended a few months ago for failing to follow protocol on a possible drunken driving case. The chief was recently criticized for letting a drunken driver off after she blew twice the legal limit. Now, the Local 4 Defenders have learned about a new incident.

Local 4 Defender Karen Drew was recently tipped off about a Ferndale officer not following proper procedure. Documents show Officer Keith Thibodeau violated a variety of rules, including immoral conduct, improper use of position, lien usage and others.

Why is Thibodeau still on the job? Soon after the Defenders asked the question, both Thibodeau and Chief Timothy Collins left the department.

It's a major shakeup for Ferndale police, as Thibodeau was a 25-year veteran of the force. A statement released by the city manager says Thibodeau violated several regulations, including unbecoming conduct, insubordination, inattention to duty and incompetence.

The Defenders discovered the officer's termination was the last in a series of progressive disciplinary measures over recent years.

In a report from September 2015, Thibodeau is cited for violating a long list of policies, including immoral conduct and lien usage. At that time, he got a 10-day suspension without pay and warned that another similar situation would lead to his firing.

According to paperwork, similar allegations arose against Thibodeau in August 2017, but nothing was done. After the Defenders started asking questions in March, seven months after the incident, Thibodeau responded to the violations on March 29 and was terminated a few days later.

Why didn't Collins take action against Thibodeau? Local 4's requests for an interview were denied. Instead, Collins, who was with the force for more than 40 years, announced his retirement Monday night at the Ferndale City Council meeting.

This isn't the first time Collins has been under fire. The Defenders recently exposed him for allowing a drunken driver, who was also the mother of a police officer, off after blowing twice the legal limit.

"I'm giving you a $10,000 gift," Collins said in a video of the incident.

When he sat down with the Defenders a few months ago, Collins defended his decision.

"Did it matter her son was a Detroit police officer?" Karen asked.

"I think it did to the extent that I knew I had somebody responsible I could turn her over to," Collins said.

Now nobody from the Ferndale Police Department is talking.

"New leadership during this review would be more effective," Ferndale Mayor David Coulter said in a statement.

The chief will receive his full salary until the end of November, even though he will be retired on Friday.

The allegations surrounding Thibodeau are complicated, but sources said there were questions on how he was doing his job, using liens, specifically. They didn't allow all the information to be released to the public.

Here is a full statement on Thibodeau from Ferndale City Manager April Lynch:

An officer of the Ferndale Police Department has been terminated for violating departmental rules and regulations. His termination date was Monday, April 2, following continual and repeated rule and regulation violations.

Allegations against the officer, a 25-year veteran of the Police Department, were made in February of this year. After a thorough internal investigation, the Department charged the officer with violation of several regulations, including Unbecoming Conduct, Insubordination, Inattention to Duty, and Incompetence.

“We take matters like this very seriously,” said Ferndale City Manager April Lynch. “We expect the best from all City employees, and perhaps from our members of law enforcement most of all; they are entrusted by our community to serve and protect and to do so with the highest level of conduct, honesty, and integrity.”

The officer’s termination was the last in a series of progressive disciplinary measures over recent years. “It is always our hope that procedural disciplinary measures will help correct an issue, particularly in an officer with such a lengthy tenure,” said Lynch. “Unfortunately, and in hindsight, that was not the case here.”

Ferndale Mayor David Coulter said that this is an example—and the most recent in a series of examples—of an individual member of our police department not living up to the values our community expects.

“I am deeply disappointed by this officer’s behavior,” Coulter said. “Incidents like these have the potential to affect the community trust that is so critical to effective law enforcement.”

Coulter added: “Our City Manager -- with the full support of myself and City Council -- will lead a formal review of the Police Department to look at current policies and procedures, and to identify what new measures, training, and cultural shifts need to be implemented to help prevent incidents like these from occurring in the future.”

Coulter also accepted Ferndale Police Chief Tim Collins’s announcement of retirement, made at the Monday, April 9, City Council meeting.

“Chief Collins informed City Council that he was retiring effective Friday, concluding a distinguished 40-year career with the department,” Coulter said. “He has always put his department and the city first, and it is in that typical spirit that he has concluded, and I agree, that new leadership during this review would be more effective."

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.