Vanishing police positions E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

In Michigan, where cops and firefighters no longer have “the right to work,” there are 16 percent fewer police officers on the streets than a decade ago. And things are going to get worse. Law enforcement leaders across the state say 2013 will be another tough year. More budget cuts, layoffs and consolidations are on the way.

Last year in Michigan we saw Michigan State Police troopers patrolling Detroit as well as the wholesale restructuring of many fire and law enforcement agencies.

Some communities turned to voters in November to try to bolster their budgets with tax increases without much success.

The ongoing cuts to Michigan law enforcement have whittled the the number of officers working for all the agencies in the state to an estimated 18,849 officers, compared with 22,488 in 2001.

That’s a problem in trying to attract new businesses and homeowners.

Samantha Harkins, director of state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, said public safety is critical to stable communities.

"If you don't have safe communities, really, that's sort of a cornerstone of having a vibrant community," she told the Detroit Free Press in a recent interview.

Many communities are shutting down their agencies and contracting out. Beginning this year, New Haven is disbanding its police force and contracting with the Macomb County Sheriff's Office. The move is expected to save the village about $500,000 in the first year.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office contracts with various communities to provide law enforcement services. It serves 340,000 people in 16 communities. They’re likely to see even more business going forward as cities and towns consider shutting down agencies and contracting the service to an outside group.

Pontiac, Michigan recently turned to the Sheriff's Office for police service, saving the struggling city $2.2 million a year while adding 24 more deputies to patrol the streets.

"A lot of communities look at it, and the ones that take the plunge have been tremendously happy," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters. "We're not in the business of going out and soliciting contracts, but we know we have a very successful model with very competitive terms."

Even if a municipality doesn’t hire the Sheriff’s Office to take over law enforcement functions, they still rely on Bouchard’s agency for assistance.

"Almost every community turns to us for something, our crime lab, for aviation, for dogs, or our marine division," Bouchard said. "And a lot will turn to us if there is a major crime."

Bouchard says he thinks that the era of outsourcing and consolidation is just beginning.

"In many respects, the state has been slow to come to the idea of region-wide or even community-wide cooperation," he said. "There are a lot of things that could be shared."
Consolidation option

As for major cities like Detroit, it’s going to be a really bad year.

Detroit police officers already took a 10 percent pay cut and now work 12-hour shifts. Former Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. retired amid a sex scandal involving an internal affairs officer. If all that wasn’t enough, Michigan Governor Rick

Snyder may very well declare “financial emergency” and take over the city entirely, voiding all current contracts as is already the case in Benton Harbor.

Here’s the state law that allows Snyder to appoint “emergency managers,” anywhere in Michigan.
I, Joseph L. Harris, the duly appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Benton Harbor, Michigan (the “City”), pursuant to the power and authority granted by Act 4 of the Public Acts of Michigan of 2011, being MCL 141.1501 et seq (the “Act”), do hereby resolve and order as follows:
    WHEREAS, Section 19(ee) provides that the Emergency Manager may exercise any power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission or similar entity of the City, whether elected or appointed;
    WHEREAS, the power of the Emergency Manager as set forth in Section 19(ee) of the Act is superior to and supersedes any such officer or entity; and
    WHEREAS, now, no City Board, Commission or Authority has authority or power to act on behalf of the City as provided in the Act.
    1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than:
    i) Call a meeting to order.
    ii) Approve of meeting minutes.
    iii) Adjourn a meeting.
    2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.
    3. This order shall be effective immediately.

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