Editorial: A salute to Bradenton's retiring police Chief Razz

Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski has served this city with remarkable distinction during his 13-year tenure. The crime rate has plunged significantly, and his policy decisions have improved community relations.

After 45 years in law enforcement, Radzilowski announced his retirement a few weeks ago. Popularly known as Chief Razz, he'll be missed.

His unwavering commitment to integrity and dedication to public service has given Bradenton a strong police force.

Radzilowski's only 65. How old is that? When he began his career all those years ago as a rookie patrolman with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., cops did not even have radios.

They had to rush to a callbox -- ancient telephone land lines mounted at various street locations so beat officers could report to dispatch offices. Tough to imagine today.

Chief Razz's most important policy change came with with neighborhood policing: assigning specific officers to certain areas so they became acquainted with residents. They took ownership of the neighborhood.

They got out of cars, unlike older ideas. Walked the streets. Met kids. Adults. Gained trust.

That, of course, is not the case everywhere, but neighborhood policing takes time to win over citizens hesitant on cooperating with law enforcement.

Chief Razz took big strides on this front. "We've seen huge results on what I call customer satisfaction," he told the Herald Editorial Board.

His officers routinely return to residents to survey their satisfaction with police actions. "It's communication and how your treat people," he said.

That should be the case in any government entity, but especially in law enforcement where outcomes of encounters can be deadly.

Chief Razz admits trust in law enforcement is not where it should be, citing recent controversial national cases of officer shootings. Can every agency and officer be held accountable for the actions of others?

Society needs more trust in law enforcement, which is why Bradenton's neighborhood police officers are essential to establishing relationships with residents.

The emotional toll of law enforcement work is unimaginable to outsiders. Few other jobs require seeing horrible crimes as part of their daily routine. Radzilowski does not take those images home, as he told us. That takes strength.

Helping people is his most remarding takeaway from a long career.

To know this about Chief Razz is to know about character:

He got a call from the wife of an elderly stroke victim in his late 70s. She told Chief Razz that her husband held a deep respect for law enforcement officers. She asked if he could visit him, even though her husband could not talk.

He did. Many times over weeks. Just Chief Razz talking.

Michael Radzilowski has earned our respect over the years, and we wish him well in his retirement -- with his cool classic cars and his great travel plans.