Diversity, community, and a stronger society

Officer Mark Wardia's journey with the West Bloomfield Police Department

By Monique Mansour

Officer Mark Wardia

Officer Mark Wardia

Deputy Chief Curt Lawson has been serving with the West Bloomfield Police Department for 24 years. As a child, he had his sights set on the FBI, but that later changed after he attended college and began a career at the West Bloomfield Police Department. He loved it so much that he never left.

“I grew up in Birmingham and never would’ve thought that I’d end up working so close to where I grew up,” said Lawson. “One of the things that I instantly fell in love with at this police department was with the diversity of the staff. My favorite part of my job is the community outreach. I love meeting people and working with the nonprofit groups we partner with.”

The West Bloomfield police department takes pride in finding and hiring qualified police officers from minority backgrounds and other backgrounds that are representative of the community they serve. Currently, there are four police officers of Chaldean heritage on staff and Deputy Lawson takes great pride in this fact.

“When residents can see themselves represented in the police officers that serve them, this creates a positive community dynamic that benefits all. We want to build bridges with our community,” said Lawson. “It helps to have officers who speak languages other than English, and to have officers who speak Arabic or [Aramaic] or both on staff for instances when translating is necessary. This creates for a better environment for all involved. Also, a diverse police staff allows for other officers to learn about different cultural nuances present within the community we serve. It all helps to build a healthy society, which is always our goal. We have great fun learning about one another.”

One of the first Chaldean police officers in the Metro Detroit area and the longest serving Chaldean on force at the West Bloomfield Police Department is Mark Wardia. Wardia has been serving on the force for 23 years. Prior to that, he was a business owner, working alongside his family until the age of 32.

“I’ve wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a child. A few of my neighbors were police officers and I would chase police cars on my bike,” he said. “You either have the drive within you to be a police officer, or you don’t.”

During field training, when he’s teaching others, Wardia tells his fellow officers an important mantra that has served him well in all of his years on a police staff. “The job is easy if you make it easy, it’s fun if you make it fun, it’s hard if you make it hard…in short, the job is what you make of it.”

Wardia was one of the first minorities staffed, and, at first, this was a challenge. “People had their own ideas about Chaldeans. I remember one time, during the early days, someone told me that I didn’t act like a Chaldean. I remember saying back, ‘Well, how do Chaldeans act?’” Times have certainly changed, and Wardia thoroughly enjoys the diversity present in his current staff.

Wardia is trilingual, as he speaks English, Arabic, and Aramaic. “People don’t often think that I look Chaldean or they wouldn’t guess that I’m Chaldean at first glance. I’ve encountered many instances when I’ll overhear people talking about me in Arabic or [Aramaic], and then I join in on the conversation, speaking the language they’re speaking in. The look on their faces…it’s priceless.”

Wardia is one of three officers in the department who has been awarded with the prestigious Police Medal of Honor by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. He’s also been named Office of Year for the State of Michigan. Both of these awards were due to his heroic efforts during an incident that occurred in October of 1995. He swam out in freezing lake water to save individuals who called out for help at an early hour of the morning. Two of these three individuals survived, due in part to Wardia’s efforts.

Wardia’s favorite part of being a police officer is the fact that the job keeps him on his toes. “Every day is different. No two days are the same. I also love the people I meet and come across. The people are what make the job.”

He offers this advice to anyone considering a career in law enforcement, and to young individuals everywhere: “Go to school. Get educated! Go after your dreams! Work hard. Respect yourself and others. Love yourself and others.”