River Rouge's Roberto Cruz Rooted in Community
New Director of Public Safety
October 8, 2020
River Rouge's Director of Public Safety Roberto Cruz was born and raised in River Rouge. He began as a firefighter with the city in 1993 after receiving job offers from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Denver, Colorado Fire Department, then deciding to remain near family and home and work in his hometown. Cruz says the community is a diverse one and that quality is what makes it an appealing place to call home. "I've worked my whole career here," he says. "It's been a great community, great citizens."
As Director of Public Safety, Cruz's training includes paramedic licensing, certification in the Michigan State Police Fire Investigation course, completion of a Bachelor of Public Safety Studies Degree, and completion of the Wayne County Regional Police Academy, which qualified him as a police officer in 2012. Cruz had risen through the ranks at River Rouge's Fire Department and also served as the city's Fire Marshall. He became Fire Chief in 2015 and this past July was named Public Safety Director.
River Rouge's Public Safety Department officers are cross-trained as both police officers and firefighters. That requirement, Cruz says, is one of the challenges the department faces, as it works to ensure all police officers are comfortable with the cross-training as firefighters. The department's two newest officers are in the process of cross-training. Cruz says safety on the job and general job stress that goes along with the public safety arena are other difficulties most, if not all departments face. "It is a tough job, the fire and police officers, they do a fabulous job," he says. "What I'm trying to do is just make sure everybody at least laughs a couple times throughout the day."
While certain communities in other parts of the nation have been in distress over policing tactics and controversies, Cruz says the city has dealt with only one small issue with its residents recently. "We've been fortunate, the officers get along real well with the citizens; we haven't had any protesting like that," he says. "We had one small protest...it was more or less an officer issue, the police department in general, and the mayor and everybody went out and spoke with the small group that did attend and I think, put them at ease... we haven't had some of the issues some other communities have had."
Community involvement and communication can go a long way in ensuring the public safety department and its officers are perceived as a necessary part of the community. "I enjoy the children, I usually stop in at the schools, but unfortunately with COVID, the schools are doing remote learning. I usually stop in and have lunch with the younger kids because I think if you can get a younger person to believe in what you're saying and to look up to you, we will cut off the problems as they get older," he says. "For me, it's always been community relations as far as the kids."
Unfortunately, the department will not host an open house this fall due to pandemic restrictions, limiting public interactions. But challenges aside, both foreseen and unforeseen, Cruz says he derives great satisfaction in the job he does for the community. "If I can leave a situation and everyone may not be happy but everyone understands why a decision was made, then I feel relief, I'm happy with that," he says. "Like I said, we've got a diverse community, we've got a diverse police department, so as far as our community relations, I think we're doing great."
For more information on the River Rouge Police Department call 313-842-4200.