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City residents hear Sheriff’s proposal on policing




About 40 people turned out Tuesday night at the Cedar Springs Middle School to hear the presentation by Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma on a proposed partnership between the City of Cedar Springs and the Sheriff Department on policing the City.

Present was the Cedar Springs City Council, and a team from the Kent County Sheriff Department.

Stelma gave his presentation, and then both the audience and the Council asked questions.

Stelma assured residents that he was not trying to take over the police department. “This is my community, too. I raised my family here, pay taxes here. This is our project—an opportunity to discuss and impact our community for the future.”

The city’s current Police Chief, Roger Parent, will be retiring in September. And before deciding to hire a new chief, the Council asked City Manager to look into whether there would be any benefits to contracting with the Sheriff Department. The Sheriff and his team then came up with a proposal for the City to consider.

Stelma said that this particular proposal has never been offered to a city or township before. “This is a brand new approach. You would get to design the program. It’s not a dictatorship, it’s a partnership,” he explained.

Last year’s police budget came in at $681,190. The 2014-2015 budget is projected at $685,511.

Under the proposal the Sheriff gave the city, Cedar Springs could see a possible savings of $120,000 to $130,000 over last year. However, expenses could be expected to go up about 3 percent each year.

Under the Sheriff Department proposal, option 1, they would provide one patrol officer on duty at all times—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to the patrol officer, they would provide a Sergeant to work a 40-hour week. The Sergeant would provide supervision and command staff support, and work with the City leadership to establish the agenda and direction of the patrol officers, much as the Chief does now. Detective services, scientific support, record management (an $11,000 savings), management reports, IT and radio service support for mobile equipment, dispatch services ($35,537) would all be included.

Vehicle costs would be provided free of charge for the regular patrols, but the city would be responsible for the sergeant’s at $350 per month. They would provide a vehicle credit for the current police cruisers.

All uniforms, equipment, supervision, liability and training costs would be provided at no additional charge. Cars and uniforms could look the way that Cedar Springs wants them.

And the Sheriff said that the City’s fulltime officers could keep their jobs, and work in Cedar Springs. He noted that was important to residents, based on what he saw at the last meeting. They would undergo a physical and application process, but he didn’t see any reason they wouldn’t qualify. He also said their financial pay and benefits would be more than what Cedar Springs provides. And, they would have more career opportunities to go into other types of law enforcement such as investigative, forensics, motorcycle patrol, local task forces, etc.

Under the second option, they would provide a community policing officer for 40 hours instead of the sergeant, at a lesser rate. Everything else would be the same.

But the proposals aren’t set in stone. If the City wants a second patrol between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., they could pay for another patrol.

Many of the residents had questions about officers leaving the city to back up another deputy, or about deputies coming in to back up the Cedar officer. Stelma said it wouldn’t be much different than it is now, since Cedar officers often do back up deputies if an incident is close to the city. They would get back as soon as possible. And if an officer here needed backup, one or more would be sent, just as they are now, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Chief Parent said that he checked with Hudsonville and Coopersville, who both have done this with Ottawa County, and they gave it a 98 percent approval rating.

City Manager Thad Taylor said that he checked with both Cascade and Plainfield Townships, who also partner with the Kent County Sheriff Department, and got good feedback. “Neither had any quality control issues,” he reported. Cascade said they were getting more than they were paying for. Both said they were very satisfied. There’s nothing negative that I’ve uncovered.”

Mayor Mark Fankhauser said the Council has a lot of information to digest. “I don’t want to enter into a decision haphazardly. I want to look after the best interests of the citizens. I don’t want to regret this two or three years down the road.”

Fankhauser said there would be a spot on the agenda at the next City Council meeting, in August, for council discussion and for residents to ask more questions.







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