Before his confirmation as the Ann Arbor Police Department’s new police chief and safety services administrator last night, John Seto and Deputy Chief Greg Bazick, sat in a back row of the City Council chambers, waiting for hours during Council’s deliberation over other issues.
When it came time to confirm that Seto was no longer the “interim” Chief, Council approved him unanimously and offered their congratulations.
Last weekend, University officials congratulated Seto, who began his career as a housing security officer in 1988 before joining the AAPD in 1990. He has also worked with campus organizations over the years.
In an interview before the meeting, Lieutenant Myron Blackwell said Seto is the right man for the job.
“He’s a very smart, intelligent guy … Everybody’s happy that he’s been appointed chief, and I think that he’ll do a very good job,” Blackwell said.
Before the vote, Mayor John Hieftje also expressed his support of Seto.
“I’m very happy to be a co-sponsor of this,” Hieftje said. “I’ve worked with him for a long time.”
Councilmember Marcia Higgins (D–Ward 4) said she was glad the appointment came from within the AAPD.
“I’m also very pleased to see that we are promoting someone to police chief from within our own department,” Higgins said. “Chief Barnett Jones did a great job of succession planning.”
Earlier on in the meeting, Ann Arbor resident Blair Shelton spoke during the public commentary section of the meeting to address Seto’s appointment.
Shelton, who won a lawsuit earlier in his life to obtain his DNA from police after he was found to be innocent in a rape and murder investigation, said the AAPD has a history of racism.
Shelton said in 1995 an AAPD officer pulled someone over driving a Channel 7 Action News truck that was at Shelton’s home for an interview about his case because he thought the vehicle was stolen.
“Bill Proctor is African American and … is actually a former Detroit police officer … the vestiges of racism had been enshrined in the police department since its very inception,” Shelton said.
Shelton added that he should be allowed to live free from unwanted police suspicion.
“I am a human being. I have the right to exist, to move freely in the community, to eat at any lunch counter, to drink from any water fountain,” he said. “These are the privileges that my ancestors gave their lives for. So with the appointment of John Seto I have to say, ‘Good luck.’ ”
After most councilmembers spoke, Seto stepped up to the microphone and said it is a pleasure to work for the AAPD.
“For the past 22 years, I have had the great privilege of working with the superb group of men and women in the Department of Safety Services, both the police and fire departments,” Seto said.
He added that his coworkers have made Ann Arbor a great and safe place.
“I have witnessed firsthand their hard work, I have witnessed firsthand their dedication, and I have witnessed firsthand the sacrifices they have made to serve and protect this great community,” Seto said.
Seto said he plans to continue the job as he did during his interim period.
“Throughout my entire career, I have worked very hard to represent this organization and this city in the most professional manner … everyone I meet with respect. I will continue to do that in this new position,” Seto said.
In an interview after the appointment, Bazick said he knew Seto during the span of his career.
“John and I started a year apart from each other, and we were partners on the midnight shift for several years,” Bazick said. “It’s kind of fun to start out with somebody in a career and finish it off that way.”
Eric Gabbard contributed to this report.