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Police in Brandon/Groveland

June 09, 2010 - As Brandon Township officials cut police positions due to a shrinking budget, concern is rising over where those deputies are serving and who is paying for it.

Shortly before the township board unanimously voted during their June 7 meeting to eliminate both the desk officer at the Brandon substation as well as the school liaison officer, township resident and former fire chief Bob McArthur addressed the officials.

"Our deputies were in Groveland Township again and I want to make sure we get reimbursement on a lesser protected community," he said.

McArthur was referring to two auto accidents that were responded to by a Brandon deputy on June 5 at Grange Hall and Wolfe roads in Groveland Township when there was no State Police trooper available. Groveland Township residents do not have their own police department nor do they contract for police services from the Oakland County Sheriff's Office as Brandon does. They depend on troopers from the Michigan State Police post located in their township for police service.

The ten troopers from that post also serve Rose Township and Holly Township residents for their sole police protection. It is also the responsibility of those troopers to patrol I-75 in the area. When a patrol car is on a call and unavailable in Groveland or Rose or Holly, officers from surrounding townships may be called upon to respond.

police protection. It is also the responsibility of those troopers to patrol I-75 in the area. When a patrol car is on a call and unavailable in Groveland or Rose or Holly, officers from surrounding townships may be called upon to respond.

Michigan State Police First Lt. Gary Parsons said the Groveland Post takes about 1,000 calls per year; however, he was not sure the number of those calls that go to Groveland, Rose or Holly townships.

"The Michigan State Police is no exception with regard to budgets, and we appreciate the help the Oakland County Sheriff's Office provides,"said Parsons. "When necessary the state police would do the same. The Groveland Township post has 10 staff (total). Sometimes the troopers that are on duty get tied up or have a very serious call. Still it's a big area to cover and with budgets that have been depleted we're spread pretty thin sometimes. Either way there's always one car on duty."

In the past month, Brandon Township deputies have responded nine times to Groveland Township, a "significant" number, said Brandon Substation Commander Sgt. Pete Burkett. These calls have been for car accidents as well as issues such as domestic disputes.

This number came as a surprise to Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma, who wants to see the reports.

"I suspect they are misdirected calls, that are close to Bueche's," he said. "I'm interested in seeing documentation and seeing if there is something we can do about it."

Burkett began tracking around March the number of hours deputies that are paid for by Brandon taxpayers are spending in Groveland Township, because, he said, Groveland residents are getting Brandon services for free.

"Brandon Township residents are losing out by having deputies that are supposed to protect over here answering calls over there," Burkett said. "My primary job is making sure that deputies are serving and protecting Brandon Township, and not Groveland."

He admits that sometimes a call to Groveland Township can leave Brandon without a patrol car when more than one deputy has to respond, such as in the case of a domestic dispute. The problem has nothing to do with the State Police, he said— they're busy and short-staffed like everyone else. Instead, Burkett said it is time for Groveland to step up to the plate and take action.

That call to action might include a request for reimbursement.

"We need to present Groveland Township with something that we're going to bill them," said Brandon Township Treasurer Terry Beltramo. "Groveland shouldn't get a free ride."

That idea wasn't fully embraced, however. Supervisor Kathy Thurman said while they might look into charging Groveland residents cost recovery in an arrest situation, "If you have someone in need, you can't turn the other cheek."

DePalma said his township will not pay cost recovery, that Brandon already receives money through Public Act 416. Under 416, MSP gives money collected from speeding tickets statewide and gives it to county sheriff's offices that assist them in secondary road patrols.

"The Oakland County Sheriff's Office receives over a million dollars (from the state police) and that money is specifically for the county to assist in secondary road patrols when state police can't always make the calls," he said. "Brandon Township needs to take it up with the state police."

Burkett said deputies have a duty to act, even if Groveland Township were to refuse to pay reimbursement.

Jeff Potter, Oakland County Commissioner for District 8, co-wrote a policy resolution urging the state legislature and governor to eliminate the subsidization of state policing needs. The resolution passed at the commissioners meeting June 9. Potter said the issue is more than just one community getting for free what another community must pay for. Subsidized police services tips the scales in favor of these communities when it comes to attracting new residents.

"The subsidy turns into a price advantage, because they're not paying police taxes, their neighbors are paying them," Potter said. "The other problem is, the things we want our state police to do are being gutted and diminished while the subsidy endures."

The investigation of technically complex crimes, task forces, and highway patrol suffer when, he said, state cops are out dumping beer in parks, closing down loud parties, or responding to fender benders in communities without their own police protection. Potter emphasizes that he isn't advocating the closing of any state police posts. Rather, he wants the state police to focus on state police matters.

"Groveland is certainly not podunk and certainly not poor," said Potter. "Their housing and zoning is tilted toward the upper end. There is no argument that they can't afford it. None. Their millage rates are very, very low and if this was imposed on them, they would only be doing what their brothers and sisters do, which is pay something to support local police efforts."

DePalma said Groveland is in the majority— 69 percent of townships in Michigan use the state police for their only police protection. Besides that, he said, 23 percent of Groveland is owned by the state as park land.

"We're happy with our police service," DePalma said. "Brandon decided they wanted a regular police department. We don't have to make that decision. They want to force it on us."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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