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Twp. board chops cops

Following latest reduction deputy ranks this year dwindles from 14 to 10.5 at township substation

November 17, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- Police staffing in the township took another blow Monday night with further reductions approved by the board.

A motion to eliminate the deputy II K-9 position from the township's contract with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office effective Jan. 1 passed by a 6-1 vote. Treasurer Terry Beltramo was the lone no vote.

A motion that followed to eliminate half of an Oakland County Sheriff Deputy II (no-fill) position beginning Jan. 1 and to consolidate the midnight police patrol shifts between Brandon and Independence townships (pending approval of the Independence board) passed unanimously.

The decisions, said Supervisor Kathy Thurman, brings the township to the minimum staffing level to adequately patrol the township and maintain a substation. The most recent reductions, coupled with the board's approval in June to eliminate the school liaison officer as well as a deputy I desk officer positions, takes the township from 14 officers down to 10.5.

"I don't want to see us reduce anymore," Thurman said. "I think further reductions would jeopardize the safety and welfare of the residents."

The township board has grappled with budget cuts all year, meeting in budget workshops to formulate a plan to deal with reductions in revenue. Declining property values have impacted the ability to fund many services, including police protection. A township fiscal priorities survey returned by more than 800 respondents in August found an overwhelming majority believe that police service is "very important" and 558 respondents disagreed that the police force should be reduced, with only 209 supportive of a decrease in officers. However, respondents were almost evenly split on paying an additional $28 per year in taxes to keep the level of law enforcement unchanged, with 391 favoring an increase in the millage and 382 disapproving.

On Sept. 20, the board voted 4-2 to keep the police millage at 3.25, rather than levying the maximum allowable police millage rate of 3.5286.

Beltramo said he voted against the elimination of the K-9 during the most recent board meeting because he doesn't want to see a reduction in police services.

"There are other non-mandated services that can go before we take police away," he said. "We should be taking all the non-mandated things out of the budget, then putting back what we have money for. If we don't have money for recreation, so be it."

Oakland County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Pete Burkett, commander of the Brandon substation, said it is difficult to see police protection decreased, but the substation staff will continue to provide the best service they can with what they have.

"Maybe in the future we can get some of these deputies back," he said. "No one wanted to see deputies cut."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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