Richard Wierzbicki: LGBT Ally and Friend
So he was promoted five times in 12 years. So he’s been recognized over 80 times for his work on hate crimes and bullying in Broward County. But Captain Richard Wierzbicki has another, less superhero side, one that enjoys sports, history and Asian food.
On April 3, Wierzbicki received the Anti-Defamation League’s Doris and Murray Felton Excellence in Law Enforcement Award. The ceremony was one of many that the captain would have attended through his long career. The Wilton Manors police chief retired in 2005, but that wasn’t even close to the end of the road for him.
He was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1958, into a law enforcement family. Wierzbicki, who found high school to be boring, said that he knew he wanted to be one of two things when he grew older: a boxer or a police officer.
"I just found law enforcement more interesting," he said.
And so, six years after moving to Wilton Manors, Wierzbicki started off as a police aide for Pompano Beach in 1978. Not three years later, he would make police officer in Wilton Manors, where he would climb the ladder and spend the next 27 years of his career. Out of the following nine years he was patrolling, Wierzbicki clearly remembers the night he was out for a domestic disturbance call. He was training another officer, and didn’t expect to end up ducking from whizzing bullets. The memory stays with him to this day, and he’s glad to have made it, saying he was very fortunate.
Manors was more laid back then, he said, and definitely not as vibrant. It was during his time there, he said, that the LGBT community started moving in and setting up its culture around the small city.
"I knew we had to change the way the police department operated," Wierzbicki said. "We had to diversify the department to represent the community in Wilton Manors."
And so the captain got to work, changing the psych exam for incoming officers and taking a more focused stand on the officers’ ability to deal with diversity - a facet he said was not largely taught at the academies. The captain would later push hard on domestic violence, bullying, homeless abuse and hate crimes. His 2005 retirement was well earned.
But duty called Wierzbicki back home, and he rejoined the police force in 2008, titled Commander in the Department of Law Enforcement for the county. That same year, Sheriff Al Lamberti put Wierzbicki in charge of the newly formed Hate Crimes/Anti Bias Task Force. The new organizations would win its own recognition from the LGBT community and be looked on as an expert authority for the issues on which it focused. Wierzbicki’s testimony was partially responsible for the state’s policy revision in 2010, adding ’homeless’ as a category for hate crime. Later that year, Wierzbicki would testify in front of the senate about violence against the homeless.
But behind all of his heroic endeavors and community status, Wierzbicki has hobbies and pleasure just like anyone else.
He likes to exercise, lift weights and he regularly runs at the local LA Fitness. His wife Mindy and he have made it a habit, and priority to check out new restaurants. His favorite cuisine is Asian, and hers German. As they decide where to go, sometimes the conversation becomes what Wierzbicki calls a tug-of-war.
He follows baseball, specifically the Detroit Tigers. And since he’s got a friend who plays for the Philadelphia Phillies, he likes them, too. But the Tigers always come first.
Wierzbicki also makes sure to make time for reading, his favorite topic being World War II. And in that war, his favorite moment to read about is the Battle of the Bulge. And if he’s not reading books, the captain is probably watching the first two installments of the Godfather movie, which he claims to have watched over a hundred times.
If you ask Wierzbicki which character in the series most resembles him, he would say Luca Brasi, who was known for being able to fight hard fights and get the job done.
"I love to take on challenging and difficult assignments," Wierzbicki said. "Especially if I get to help a person who really needs it, or an organization."