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City to study Sheriff proposal for policing


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By Judy Reed

 

With Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent retiring in September, the Cedar Springs City Council has a choice to make: either hire a new police chief, or contract with the Kent County Sheriff Department to provide law enforcement for the city of 3,500-plus residents.

Last month the City Council directed City Manager Thad Taylor to ask Sheriff Larry Stelma to provide a cost for the same level of service the current police provide. The Sheriff and his team presented Taylor and Chief Parent with a proposal last week that contained two options to consider.

“It’s not quite apples to apples but as close as they can get,” explained Taylor.

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. The police provide 30 hours a day of patrol. Three officers work 10 hours each, with two officers on duty during 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. There is then one day per week where they are all scheduled, although not all are usually working. “It’s a day where they can take vacation, or comp time,” explained Taylor. “It’s just the way the schedule falls so they get an 80-hour pay period.” That equals 10,140 hours of patrol per year.

The Chief works 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. That equals 1,980 hours yearly.

The clerk works 20 hours weekly, for 1,040 hours.

That is 13,160 hours of law enforcement accountable to the City. Last year’s police budget came in at $681,190. The 2014-2015 budget is projected at $685,511. (According to Chief Parent he gave back some of his budget to the city last 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. The Sergeant would also provide additional services, which could include neighborhood watch, business watch, presentations, communications to city officials, working with the schools, and some zoning enforcement.

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.

The patrol officer would provide 8,760 hours of straight patrol. The sergeant would provide the same amount of hours as the Chief—1,980.

While it appears to be less patrol hours, according to the Sheriff, they would actually provide 338 hours of more patrol time, because the detective bureau would compensate for approximately 16 percent of the city officer’s patrol time—the time they spend following up on investigations for felonies, warrant processing, and other follow up. Based on 2013 calls for service, that would equal 1,718 hours of service.

Clerical support would be provided at no charge and would include things like sex offender registration, gun permits, records checks, freedom of information reports, etc. Clerical support is available in Grand Rapids or at the north substation. The part time clerk that works two days a week could be at the north substation, or possibly relocated to Cedar Springs City Hall.

This entire option would cost $560,384, a potential savings over last year of $120,806.

Option 2, would be exactly the same, except instead of a sergeant to provide supervision, they would provide a community policing deputy. The deputy would provide the other services such as neighborhood watch, business watch, working with city officials, schools, etc. That option would be $548,306 per year.

While it looks like the Sheriff proposal would be a savings, there is also the human element to consider. All of the city’s full time officers—six of them, several with 10 to 14 years of service—would all have to reapply for their jobs.

“The Council has to decide what the current officers bring to the community,” said Taylor. “They give us a good level of coverage, similar to what the Sheriff proposed, but double coverage between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. These are officers that have made a commitment to the community—they work here because they want to be here. They know the community, and that’s very important in law enforcement. And people know them. How do you quantify that? They’ve made a commitment and are very dedicated. That’s not saying anything against any deputy; we just don’t have the certainty that they would be here any longer than a year or two. It’s difficult to imagine one being here for 14 years, like Officer Chad Potts has been.”

Taylor also noted that the current clerk is at City Hall 5 days a week to help people if an officer is not in. That might not be the case under the new options.

Another point to think about is if the Council decides to go with the Sheriff Department to save the money formerly spent on law enforcement, what will they use that money for? To lower taxes? Make road improvements? New sidewalks? Something else? “People will want to know how it’s going to impact them,” said Taylor.

He explained that the Sheriff department proposal would be a new way to provide law enforcement to the community, but he thinks the City Council needs to engage the public and find out what they want. “It’s a huge decision,” he remarked.

The Sheriff Department will have representatives at the June 12 City Council meeting at 7 p.m. to answer questions from Council. The Council is also expected to announce at that meeting a date for a special meeting just to hear comments and questions from the public on what they want.

In the meantime, you can contact City Manager Thad Taylor with comments at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org, or one of the City Council members. Just go to www.cityofcedarsprings.org, and click on council. Choose one of the names and click on it. It will give you a bio of the council member and an email address.

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Police Chief to retire


 

Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent

Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent

By Judy Reed

 

Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent announced last month that he would retire August 29, after almost 40 years in law enforcement.

He hired on as the Cedar Springs Police Chief April 15, 2008. Prior to that, he served 34 years with the Kent County Sheriff Department.

“What I’ve really enjoyed is being able to work with dedicated patrol officers who understand how important it is to provide service to the community along with police protection. Even through these tough economic times, the police officers have been given the proper equipment, training and technology to maintain a professional police department,” he noted.

He also highly commended the officers working under him.

“We have great officers. When you don’t have a lot of turnovers, and the officers like to work here, they have good relationships with the citizens—that’s really a plus. You don’t see that everywhere,” he explained.

Growing up just outside of Sparta, Parent was familiar with small towns, and said it was pretty much what he expected it would be like.  “Cedar Springs has a lot to be proud of,” he said. “I was never embarrassed to say that I was police chief in Cedar Springs,” he remarked. “My entire experience has been positive. There are a lot of nice people here. I’ve worked for two fine city managers here, and the city has good employees at city hall.”

Parent said he will be spending his free time with more recreational activities, including his twin 2-1/2-year-old grandsons.

“Roger has done a fabulous job,” said City Manager Thad Taylor. “I was and am continually impressed with his professionalism. And his customer service is outstanding. He has a keen sense of what it takes to succeed as a small town police chief and translates that to how our officers should perform. He sets a great example and will be sorely missed.”

The city is already searching for a new chief. They currently have an ad up on their website, and plan to post the ad on several professional websites as well. Taylor said they would consider both internal and external candidates. The deadline to answer the ad will be April 25, and interviews would be the week of May 12. “We hope to have a candidate identified with background check and physicals by the end of June, and extend an offer and have it accepted by the first part of July,” explained Taylor. He added that the candidate would then start in early August to have three to four weeks of working with Parent.

The Post asked Taylor if he had considered doing what the Village of Howard City recently did—merge with the county Sheriff Department to save money. Under their agreement, the officers became Sheriff deputies and administrative duties went to the county. Cedar Springs has checked into this before, but never acted on it.

“If council directed me to do it I would,” said Taylor. “There are pros and cons to going that route. I’ve not been asked by council as a whole to pursue that.”

 

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More buildings vandalized; arrests made


 

Handcuffs

 

For the third time in six weeks, business and homeowners woke up Tuesday, April 1, to find out their buildings and/or homes had been vandalized with spray paint. By late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning, Cedar Springs Police had arrested a 19-year-old and two juveniles for the crimes.

The United States Post Office on Cherry Street, Alpha Family Center on First Street (kitty-cornered from the Post Office), Car Quest, Len Allington’s building (which houses Perry’s Place) at 90 N. Main, and the vacant building at 95 N. Main, as well as some houses on 8th Street, were all victims of defacement with graffiti. Swear words and numbers were the most common marks.

According to Police Chief Roger Parent, officers did some good police work, and narrowed down their list of suspects to include this 19-year-old Cedar Springs resident, who is homeless. When they saw him and three others walking late Tuesday night, and carrying backpacks, they stopped them and questioned them. The suspects ultimately confessed to several of the crimes.

The 19-year-old, who has not yet been arraigned, is lodged in the Kent County Jail, and could be arraigned Thursday on a charge Malicious Destruction of Property over $1,000, a felony. His name and actual charges will be released once he has been arraigned.

Chief Parent said that while defacing The Post Office is a federal offence, they would probably want it taken care of under a local ordinance.

Parent noted that the case is still under investigation.

 

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Police Chief talks about robberies


By Judy Reed

 

Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent spoke to the Cedar Springs Area Chamber Commerce Monday evening about the robberies that took place last month and ways and things business owners should do if one occurs.

“These will not be quickly solved,” he said

N-Admiral-surveilanceThe first robbery occurred on October at the Admiral gas station, on October 9, at about 9:20 p.m. It was robbed again on December 22, about 9:02 p.m. Then, on December 29, the Kent Theatre was robbed at about 10 p.m. In each case, a man with a mask pulled over his face implied he had a weapon and demanded money, and then fled on foot to the east side of town.

Two days later, on December 31, New Year’s Eve, Family Video was robbed at about 9:50 p.m. A man in dark hair and dark clothing walked around the store for about 20 minutes without a mask waiting for others to leave, then pulled a stocking cap down over his face with eye holes cut out and approached the counter. He showed the clerks a 5 or 6 inch hunting knife and demanded money.  He then walked away to the west, towards Second St. He was tracked to Beech and Second Street, where the scent disappeared.

Each time the clothing has been different, but he has been described as about 5 foot 8 inches, and somewhere between 165 to 200 pounds.

Chief Parent urged residents to report any suspicious activity, such as a car parked and idling in a spot where it normally wouldn’t be, and if they see a crime, to be a good witness. “Look for scars, tattoos, the type of clothing they wear,” he said.

Anyone with information should please call the Cedar Springs Police a 616-696-1311, or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.

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Fire Chief sworn in


Fire Chief Marty Fraser. Post photo by J. Reed.

Marty Fraser, recently selected as the new Cedar Springs Fire Chief, was sworn in at the Cedar Springs City Council meeting last week Thursday, April 12.

Police Chief Roger Parent has been serving as interim Fire Chief for the last year, with Fraser serving as Deputy Chief. Fraser is a 35-year veteran of the department and has served in various roles. He has been a first responder since 1990.

Fraser publicly thanked Parent for his help with the department and how he’s helped during this transition.

Parent thanked Fraser, too, saying his 10 months as fire chief would not have been as easy without him.

 

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City police chief named interim fire chief


By Judy Reed

Police Chief Roger Parent will fill the job of interim chief while the city searches for a new one.

The Cedar Springs Fire Department now has a new chief to oversee operations, at least temporarily.
City Manager Christine Burns announced Thursday evening, June 9, that Police Chief Roger Parent would fill the job of interim chief while the city searches for a new one to replace Jerry Gross Sr. “We hope to have someone by the end of the year,” she said.
A committee made up of Burns, Chief Parent, finance and personnel director Linda Lehman, and a member of the fire department will interview candidates. “We’ll open it up to both internal and external applications,” said Burns.
Parent said he plans to be involved and not just a figurehead. “I’ve been given some instructions by the city manager, and I plan to be active in the fire department, not just hold it down (the position) for six months,” he explained.
Parent comes equipped to do the job. Prior to becoming police chief three years ago, he served 33 years with the Kent County Sheriff Department in various leadership roles, and 14 years with Alpine Township Fire Department as a firefighter, EMT and rescue captain.
Marty Frasier will still serve as Deputy Fire Chief, and Parent said he’s glad to have him in that position.
Parent said that some of what he’ll initially bring to the table would be written policies. Coming from the Sheriff Department, he learned that everything should be in writing so that everyone is on the same page. And he will start with the command staff. “In 2011 you have to cross all your t’s and dot your i’s,” he explained. “The firefighters don’t need to fear that.”
He said he would also begin looking at the consultant’s report for the fire department audit that was done a couple of years ago to see if there’s anything they can begin to implement. He said he also does plan to go on some calls.
Councilor Pamela Conley asked if the council had any interest in having one person (like Parent) over both the police and fire departments, as some communities have done. Parent told the Post he is not looking for another job. “I already stay busy,” he said.
Fire Chief Jerry Gross stepped down at the end of May, but will remain on the fire department as a firefighter. A reception was held in his honor just prior to Thursday night’s meeting. Several council members expressed their appreciation during council comments for Gross’s years of service as chief.
“I have a lot of respect for our outgoing chief and I wish him well,” said Conley.

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