Policing shifts from county roads to city streets
Posted on 08/17/2023
Officer Karkaba enjoys his new role. Bassem Karkaba is a people-person who enjoys the variety of being a police officer. A seasoned pro, he retired from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department after 30 years in May. That same day, he began working at the Northville City Police Department. He didn’t want to lose momentum. He was introduced to City Council on May 15.

He's happy to be doing community policing in Northville where the whole town is his beat. He goes from north to south, east to west, and spends time walking around Downtown Northville, where he checks in on local merchants and keeps a watchful eye for things that require his assistance or intervention. “We go out of our way to be nice to people,” he said of the police department.

When he worked in Wayne County, he covered road patrol and had to drive a lot – some days going from Ecorse to Inkster, Westland and the east side of Detroit. “I never got to know a community well. Here, I’m getting to know the town and business owners.” There are even some people from his city of residence (Dearborn) whom he sees in Northville.

An immigrant from Lebanon, he arrived in Dearborn in 1977. His dad moved there first and began working at the Ford Rouge Plant, making enough money to eventually bring his wife, six children, and parents to the United States. At that time, there was a civil war in Lebanon. “My dad came here with a couple hundred bucks in his pocket. He saved enough to buy a house.” That example of sacrifice, hard work, and goal-setting has guided Karkaba throughout his life.

He went into law enforcement because a lot of his friends were doing it. At one point, he thought of changing careers and obtained a B.A. in Business from Davenport University in 2001 while working midnights at a Wayne County jail.

The sense of never knowing what the day will bring keeps him engaged as an officer. Last week, he and his training officer, Pete Davis, were providing a police escort to the mayors’ bus tour of the city when they were dispatched to handle a priority run.

He’s especially pleased when he can help the most vulnerable: seniors and children. Something as simple as helping an elderly woman who is having a hard time cross the street gives him great satisfaction.

Being a police officer is not an easy job, especially when dealing with people who may be frustrated, scared, anxious or belligerent during times of crisis. “You try to help people and most appreciate your help. Some people don’t treat us so well – there’s yelling and being disrespectful.” Despite those rare encounters, Karkaba said “Ninety-nine percent of people are awesome.”

His mentor has been his brother-in-law, Kal Sabbagh, who also worked at the sheriff’s department. His advice has helped Karkaba get through some challenging times as an officer.

When he was getting ready to retire, he thought he was done. Learning of an opening in the Northville Police Department was the lure that he needed to keep going. He said to himself, “This is what I’m good at. This is what I’m comfortable doing.”

Regarding the many events in Northville, Karkaba said, “I think it’s awesome. It brings the community together. It’s good for revenue. You want your town to be on the map, and we’re in the top five (in the state).”

His wife, Gwen, and he have three girls, 17, 19 and 21. They are an athletic family with the two oldest girls playing soccer at Oakland University. He has played and coached basketball and soccer. He enjoys carpentry, doing home improvements, and gardening.