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Policing issue to be discussed tonight

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Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma and/or his team will be at the Cedar Springs City Council meeting tonight at 7 p.m. to give a presentation on a proposal for contracting with the city on police services.

Under the proposal, the Cedar Springs Police Department would be dissolved, and the Sheriff Department would take over policing the city. The city’s current full time officers would be given the chance to apply to the department.

Currently, the Cedar Springs Police Department has six full-time officers (not including the Chief), four part-time officers, three unpaid reserves that work special events, one unpaid chaplain, and a part-time clerk.

Currently, three officers work 10 hours each, with two officers on duty during 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Chief Roger Parent works during regular business hours daily, and is a backup for officers during the day shift.

Under the proposal, the Sheriff department would provide one full-time deputy on patrol 24 hours a day, and either a sergeant or a community police officer in the office during regular business hours. It’s not known whether that person would also function as a backup officer.

According to Chief Parent, there is sometimes a great need for two officers on in the evening. For example, on June 4, there were 16 calls between 5 p.m. and midnight for the two officers. The next night, there was only six. “It’s hot and cold. It’s a busy town,” he said.

The Sheriff Department projected a savings of over $120,000 for the City if they go with what they are proposing.

Parent, who worked for the Sheriff Department for many years before coming to Cedar Springs, is retiring in August. “I worked for the Sheriff Department so can’t say anything bad about them. There are a lot of good deputies. But what we have here is good and works for Cedar Springs,” he said.

He noted that with three current officers having over 10 years in and one at top pay, it would definitely affect their career paths, as well as service to the public. “I understand there would be a cost savings, and there would be police coverage, it would just be different. I feel like we give more personal attention, more follow up than some deputies could.”

He also noted that these officers chose to work here and dedicate themselves to our community. “Is it fair that one council decides this for them?” he asked.

To hear more about the proposal and possibly dates for a special meeting with the public, attend the meeting tonight at Cedar Springs City Hall at 7 p.m.

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