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Township eyes deputy reductions



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May 19, 2010 - By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.- The township could soon have three less deputies, as boardmembers contemplate cuts to the police budget.

At a budget workshop meeting May 24, boardmembers discussed decreasing the police coverage provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office by one to three officers. Supervisor Kathy Thurman said the move is necessary because beginning next year, the township will not have enough funding to maintain the current level of staffing.

"Our options are to take some action soon and cut fewer officers, as opposed to waiting and ultimately cutting more," Thurman said. "Although it's difficult to cut any staffing in our police department, I think it would be better to cut fewer officers early on as opposed to being forced to cut more officers later."

The current police budget is just over $2 million, Thurman said. Revenue for the police fund comes solely from a voter approved millage. The maximum millage that can be charged is 4 mills, but actual mills levied is 3.5286 due to the Headlee Amendment rollback. Because of a decrease in property tax values, Thurman said the township expects a loss of revenue of $500,000 over the next three years and a police budget in 2011 of approximately $1.8 million if no action is taken.

The OCSO Brandon substation presently has a staff of 14, which besides patrol deputies includes nine patrol deputies, Substation Commander Sgt. Pete Burkett, a Deputy I desk officer, a patrolman investigator; school liaison officer; and a K-9 deputy. The FBI standard calls for one police officer per 1,000 residents in a community. The township has 15,000 residents.

"I understand that cuts have to be made, it's happening everywhere and we have to do our part, but I do not want to risk the public health, safety and welfare," said Burkett.

If the boardmembers choose to cut officers, the substation will eliminate the desk officer, the K-9 deputy and the school liaison officer. This latter position would be the most painful, Burkett said.

The school liaison officer, which the school board has already decided to not contribute to funding anymore, is present at the schools every day, and also attends sporting events and dances. Burkett notes that having a school liaison officer is great for crime prevention.

"You can't measure deterrence and how many crimes have been prevented by kids seeing that officer in school on a daily basis," he said. "We will see an increase in crime and more severe crimes because the kids know there is no cop around."

The school liaison officer handles not only crimes by minors, but investigation of all crimes against children as well, including sexual abuse and child cruelty. Elimination of the school liaison position would mean a heavier caseload on the detective that currently handles adult criminal investigations.

"The school liaison officer has a huge impact on the community," Burkett said. "It's a double-edged sword, because I want the patrol deputies out there, too."

Thurman said possible action on the police cuts may be taken at the next board meeting, set for 7:30 p.m., June 7, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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