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Sgt. Patterson: Midnight deputy, youth detective needed

by CJ Carnacchio

March 21, 2012

Oakland County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford Township substation, wants to make it very clear about why he needs two additional officers.

While it's true the substation is managing to "hold down the fort" with 13 officers who are all doing extra work these days, Patterson sees this as a "temporary fix for the situation."

"That doesn't mean you can just keep relying on that when you're community's growing and changing," he said. "The amount of work that still needs to be done, especially in police work, can be fluid.

"It's like any other workplace even if you remove people, the work still needs to be done. Those people that are left have to step up and still get that job done."

The township substation's staffing is low when one considers that back when the sheriff's department started policing Oxford in 2000, it utilized 11 officers to cover a population of 12,467 residents, not including the village.

Today, the substation has 13 officers to serve a population of 17,090 residents, not including the village.

Over the years, the substation's staffing has fluctuated.

The high point was when it had 17 officers in 2005.

For six out of the 13 years that sheriff's department's been patrolling here, the substation's been staffed with 15 officers. In fact, it had 15 cops from 2006-10.

In essence, Patterson indicated he's not really looking to add two officers so much as he's trying to restore the staffing that's been lost over the last two years.

Patterson would like to add a deputy back to the midnight shift, so all three shifts will be staffed by four officers three of which are on duty at any given time, while the other has a day off. A midnight officer was cut last year due to declining property tax revenues.

Right now, the midnight shift is staffed by three officers, two of which are on duty at any given time, while the third has a day off. Having only two officers on duty allows for dispatch calls to be handled (i.e. reactive policing)," but it doesn't allow for much proactive policing such as patrolling subdivisions.

Having that extra deputy back on the midnight shift would give the deputies the opportunity to once again become a visible deterrent to crime during that time period.

"You can stop crime just by being seen," Patterson explained. "If somebody's thinking about breaking into a house and then they see you driving through a subdivision in a squad car, that could deter a crime."

Having a fourth officer on the midnight shift could also help cut overtime expenditures.

The sheriff's department requires a minimum of two officers to work a shift, so they can back each other up.

If someone takes a sick day or uses some vacation time and there's only three deputies assigned to that shift to begin with, another deputy must be called in and paid overtime.

"Every single time somebody does that, it's going to generate overtime," Patterson said. "We've been generating a lot of overtime because of that officer being gone."

Patterson would also like so see the addition of another detective to the substation. This one would deal exclusively with crimes involving youths.

"I believe there's a growing need for that in this area," he explained. "Oxford is unique. You have Crossroads for Youth (on E. Drahner Rd.), which is pretty much a juvenile correctional facility in the township."

Last year, the sheriff's department responded to a total of 78 calls for service at Crossroads for Youth, which is an average of 6.5 calls per month. The calls range from reports of runaways to incidents involving threats and assaults.

Patterson sees the need for a youth detective growing given the proposal to build private dormitory facilities for visiting foreign students attending Oxford High School.

Unlike crimes involving adults, those involving youths, be they suspects or victims, can be much more "time-consuming"

"There's certain mandatory things that have to be done because they're youths like Care House interviews," Patterson said.

Patterson said having the substation's only detective handling both adult and youth crimes is too much for one individual.

If the voters approve a tax increase that would allow for the addition of a youth detective, Patterson indicated he would like to eventually see this person "working hand-in-hand" with the school district on a "day-to-day basis."

He envisions this detective having office space both inside the high school and at the substation.

Having an office at OHS would allow the detective to build a "rapport" with the kids, who would hopefully feel comfortable enough to give him information, so he could intervene in situations before they became a problem, Patterson said.

He'd also like to see, at some point in the future, the school district provide some financial assistance for youth detective. Back in September 2011, the district indicated it had $100,000 budgeted for employing the services of private security personnel at the high school and middle school.

When asked his opinion of this private security personnel, Patterson replied, "I'd rather have a certified, current police officer in the schools someone who's uniformed, who's armed, who has the authority to respond and act as an officer right there.

"What's the norm? Do other schools have private security or do they have actual deputized officers in the school system? I think they have deputized officers in the school system. The norm across the area is to do that, but (Oxford Schools are) not doing that."

No matter what happens with the proposed two-year, 1-mill police tax increase on the November ballot, Patterson made it very clear he's proud of the way the officers in his substation have stepped up.

"Everybody's trying to do what they can because everybody wants to serve the community and help out," he said. "The don't complain about stepping up and doing extra things around here."

Some of the deputies are putting in extra time and not getting paid for it.

"A lot of them are not putting in for overtime if they stay on duty an extra 15 or 30 minutes, which is their right to do so per their contract," Patterson said. "They understand those little things add up and everybody's trying to do what they can to keep the budget down."

In some cases, road patrol deputies with prior detective experience are lending a hand with investigations.

"Technically, that's not really their role," Patterson explained. "Their role as a road patrolman is to go out there and do other things like driving through subdivisions, writing tickets and talking with citizens. But it just shows that everybody and their brother is trying to step up and fill a hole when they see one. Everybody's doing more with less."