'We are very judicious in sending patrol cars'
June 16, 2010 - A riff between Brandon and Groveland townships over police coverage could be an issue for Lansing to decide.
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.
Several Brandon taxpayers are concerned about sending cars in Groveland Township, because, Burkett said, Groveland residents are getting Brandon services for free. In addition, two Brandon deputies were eliminated at the June 7 Brandon Board of Trustees meeting due to budget cuts, compounding the police issue.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard commented on Wednesday to the number of Brandon along with other deputies who are reponding to calls in, Groveland, Rose and Holly townships, neighboring communities with no police coverage other than the Michigan State Police. According to the Michigan Township Association more than 70 percent of townships statewide have no police force.
"We are very judicious in sending patrol cars outside the contracted coverage areas," said Bouchard. "They are sent only if it's a life threatening or no car is available. They never are sent for a routine or just a report. We also assist on mutual aide. But never on a routine basis."
"Right now there are a lot of issues with police funding that's going to have to be worked out with Lansing. The sheriff, in emergency situations has an obligation to respond. However, we all need to take a systematic review of all the sources of police protection. Everyone has less, and sharing resources like for training purposes is important."
David Bertram, of the Legislative liaison team, for the Michigan Townships Association, said the police budget is a tough issue statewide.
"Right now there are about 1,500 less police on the streets than Sept.11, 2001," said Bertram.
"Due to the budget issues across the state, there are some communities that don't have enough to pay. The decline has prompted a greater burden on the mutual aide agreements across the state. For example, one community does not have enough personnel to operate a fire truck—so on just about every fire run they call for mutual aide. In many of the townships it's a custom policing situation—so every community has to determine what's the value of policing."
Bertram said that currently there are no pending laws that would change the means a township would pay for policing, and it would not be fair to, nor realistic to require all communities to keep a police force.
There 1,233 members of the Michigan Townships Association with 1,240 townships in the State of Michigan. The following includes the numbers for the type of protection townships provide:
n719 townships do not provide police protection
n93 townships operate their own police department
n 152 townships contract from another unit of government or authority
n48 townships contract with the Sheriff's office or State Police
n16 townships jointly operate with another unit of government
n 1 township reported a special agreement (unknown type of agreement)
n204 townships did not respond to the survey.
(The data collected in 2008 includes 83 percent of 1,233 members of the Michigan Township Association.)