FREMONT — A police department is in mourning.
Ben Reid, 78, who worked at the department for 57 years and served as Fremont police chief from 2003 to 2006, died Sunday from an undisclosed illness, Fremont Police Chief Paul Moats said Monday.
Known for his no-nonsense approach and compassion, Reid still patrolled the town’s streets and worked to build relationships with area residents.
“He’s an institution here in Fremont, and his absence is going to be noted by everyone,” said Fremont Mayor Darron Flowers. “He always had a friendly smile and a pleasant comment to everyone he saw.”
One of Reid’s daughters, Angela, said her father always wanted to help people.
“He loved people, and he stood for what is right,” Angela Reid said. “He just was a fair man, trustworthy and honest, never met no stranger.”
He also loved the outdoors, and when he wasn’t patrolling the streets, he’d be cutting grass and pulling weeds, she said.
Moats knew Reid for 11 years and said he was loved by everyone in the police department.
“People around here respected Ben very much,” Moats said. “Ben knew everybody. He knew everybody on a first-name basis.”
Reid also helped keep youth on the straight and narrow.
“He knew the kids that needed to be reached if they were headed towards trouble,” Moats said. “He would take the time to talk to them and guide them in the right direction.”
Reid had been out of work briefly with an illness and was in the process of coming back on shift when he died, Moats said.
“His passing was kind of a shock to us,” Moats said.
Before being sidelined with an illness, Moats said Reid worked part time about 20 hours each week on patrol during the daytime.
He also was a reserve deputy with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office but was not actively working in that role at the time of his death, said Joel Gillie, Wayne County’s public information officer.
“He was patrolling,” Moats said. “He was making arrests. He still interacted with the public. From what I understand from citizens around here, Ben patrolled better than any officer because they would see him two or three times riding by like he was just riding around in a circle. Ben had really good rapport with the public, and he patrolled very well.”
Reid was also in fantastic shape.
“Ben got around pretty good for 78 years old,” Moats said. “You would think he was 35.”
Moats said Reid was one of the most dedicated and loyal law enforcement officers he’s ever seen.
“It’s a rarity to find officers that dedicate their life to careers as much as he did,” Moats said. “Ben loved law enforcement, and he loved Fremont.”
Moats said he and his officers are taking Reid’s death hard but trying to remember the good times and how Reid made Fremont a better place for everyone.
“We’re trying to remember his life and not his death,” Moats said. “We’re trying to celebrate his life with the family. It will take us some time not seeing his face around the office, and it’s going to take some time for the officers to heal from this tragic loss that we’ve suffered for our department.”
His near 60-year career in law enforcement included working 30 years at the O’Berry Center until he retired in 1994. During that time, he also worked part time at night with the Fremont Police Department.
In 2003, he was appointed as the town’s first Black chief in August 2003 after he had served as interim chief six times. He announced his retirement as chief in 2006. Even after retiring twice, Reid was still drawn to service and continued to work as an officer with the Fremont Police Department.
Angela Reid said her father was one of a kind.
“There will never be another Fremont police officer like him,” she said.
A private graveside service is planned.