We Lost a Giant

I was saddened yesterday when I learned that Chief William Corbett (Ret.), Port Huron Police  had passed away. 

He was a giant in our profession and we have lost a leader, mentor, friend. 

Chief of Police William “Bill” Corbett – age 79 years,  passed away suddenly on Thursday –July 14, 2011 at approximately 11:30 am. Chief Corbett was sworn in as the Port Huron’s 26th chief of Police in 1990, and he retired in 2008 after 18 years of service. Chief Corbett also served 10 years as the Ann Arbor chief of Police, and previous to that he had retired from the Detroit Police Dept at the rank of a Division Commander after 26 years of service. Combined, Chief Corbett served law enforcement for over 54 years.  He was a Past President of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (1988-1989), and was a 1971 graduate of the FBI national Academy –amongst many other honors.

The first time I ever met Bill was when he was invited to speak at a Women Police of Michigan conference in Detroit back in the early 1980’s.  We were a group of women police officers who were struggling for respect and credibility and to be treated as professionals.  Bill Corbett, the Chief of Ann Arbor, accepted our invitation as a keynote speaker.  I can see him still.  He came in with his wife and walked to the podium to speak.  He was the ultimate professional and he spoke about what was required of us as professional police officers.  He treated us with respect and dignity at a time when not many police chiefs would give us the time of day.

Years later, when I became a chief I often went to Bill for advice and consultation.  He gave me excellent advice and always counseled me to do what I knew to be right, whatever the cost.  He had advice for dealing with staff, elected officials and city managers.  (All useful).  I was honored when he asked me for my help in interviewing his personnel for promotional opportunities.  I was flattered that he valued my judgement.  I always wanted to model myself after Chief Corbett as I know many other chiefs did. 

The last time I saw Bill he was recently retired from Port Huron.  He was accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.  He looked well and happy.  He told me he’d recently bought a boat and he was looking forward to enjoying retirement. 

I’ll miss Bill.  I’ll never stop trying to achieve his level of quality leadership and his understanding of this profession.  Everyone needs heroes and he is one of mine.

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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.