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Village working on proposal to police twp. again

November 03, 2010 - It's been 10 years since Oxford Township was policed by a locally-based law enforcement agency.

Despite that, Keith Redlin would like to see local blues once again patrolling the township instead of county browns.

"It's about the people and they should have a choice," said Redlin, who lives in the township, but volunteers his time for the village as a reserve police officer.

That's why he worked with the village administration and police to create a proposal under which he claims the township could contract with the village for law enforcement and receive more officers for less money.

"It tells a story that there's potential for savings," Redlin said. "It tells a story that there's potential to increase our (officer) head count and make sure we have adequate services."

Although the proposal is still in rough-draft form, it shows the township could save $445,917 in the first year and $1.9 million over five years. "In my mind, the proposal was put together based on a business case, based on just sheer numbers," Redlin said.

The proposal calls for the village to provide the township with two patrol sergeants, four full-time officers, 10 part-time officers, one full-time juvenile/school liaison officer, one full-time detective, one records clerk and 12 reserve officers (unpaid volunteers). The price tag for all this in the first year would be $1.645 million.

All this staff would be to cover the township only. The village would maintain its current staffing of a full-time chief, full-time sergeant, two full-time officers and six part-time officers to patrol the 1.4-square-mile municipality.

Currently, the township budgets $2.15 million for police services provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Department. The figure includes 12 deputies, one lieutenant, one detective sergeant, one patrol investigator and one full-time administrative assistant plus substation rent, legal fees, janitorial services, office supplies, etc.

According to Redlin, the proposal isn't just about saving the township money, it's also about increasing the quality of services and providing additional manpower.

"That doesn't mean there's bad service today," he said.

But there is, in Redlin's opinion, a lack of "community touch" to the policing that's provided to the township. What's missing, according to him, are things like bicycle patrols, prevention programs and officers in the schools.

His proposal is about providing services that are "above and beyond" what the township has now.

One of those services is the addition of a juvenile/school liaison officer, something that's currently not available.

Under his proposal, Redlin said such an officer could be added without asking for any financial contribution from the schools, even though the district's budgeted $50,000 for the position

"There's an opportunity to give back one level above what we have today," he said. "I'd rather see that money they're willing to give us put into a scholarship fund. Let's give that back to the children."

Having an officer inside the schools would allow students to be mentored by local police officers.

"Instead of being scared of law enforcement, they'd learn to work with them," Redlin said. "It's not about stopping major crime in our schools. It's about being a deterrent and coaching. That's a huge part of it."

When school's not in session during the summer, Redlin indicated the officer would continue his role by helping solve juvenile crimes.

"We've seen crimes involving youth increase in the summer months because sometimes kids just don't have something to do," Redlin said.

A juvenile officer could solve these crimes quicker because he knows the kids, he's built relationships with them and he knows where to go for information, according to Redlin.

The biggest component of the proposal that allows for increased manpower at a reduced cost is the use of 10 part-time officers.

Redlin noted that part-time officers are an "invaluable resource" to the village police department.

"A part-time officer carries the same credibility and credentials as a full-time officer," he said.

Part-time officers can work under or over 40 hours per week, but are less expensive than full-time officers because they aren't required to have a full benefits package.

Village Police Sgt. Mike Solwold noted that in order to "curb" the turnover rate typically associated with part-time staff, the agency hires officers who've retired from other departments and don't want to work full-time or officers who run their own businesses and use police work to supplement their income.

"Those are the kind of people we're bringing in, so we don't have that type of turnaround," Solwold said.

In order to police the township, the village would need to purchase and equip additional patrol cars.

Redlin indicated the village could cover the up-front cost for these vehicles using either existing funds, loans or grants. These costs would be passed on to the township via the contract rates.

"We don't intend for the township to own the resources because they don't want to own that," he said. "Their goal is to pay (for a) service."

Redlin realizes the proposal will probably run into some opposition based on local history.

In February 2000, the police department that was jointly owned and operated by the township and village dissolved due to public scandals, failed millages and a high cost.

"There was bad history there," Redlin said. "There was some poor leadership at the time."

But based on the people he's talked to now, that's all changed.

"The impression that I received was it's gone the bad leadership and the challenge they had in the past is no longer present," he said. "That presented an opportunity to re-present to the community an option."

Ultimately, Redlin is looking forward to getting some input from the village council and township officials, adjusting the proposal accordingly, then presenting it to the entire township board for consideration.

"I'm hoping to have the opportunity to have that open dialogue, roll up our sleeves and work through this," he said. "This is definitely not a final proposal. I'm just looking for feedback at this point."

Solwold noted there's no intention on the village's part to get into a battle with the sheriff. It's simply about presenting an alternative to the township and letting officials know what the village can provide.

"We're taking a positive approach on this," he said. "We're not going to get into a negative campaign or anything like that. I know there's probably going to be some mudslinging and it's not going to be on our end."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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