Sheriffs say state police need not patrol rural roads
A group of county sheriffs want the state police to reduce rural-area patrols and refocus on more pressing needs.
Sheriffs Mark Hackel of Macomb County and Michael Bouchard of Oakland County said Friday they would like the Michigan State Police to provide more help in forensic investigation, homeland security, computer crime, highway patrols and helicopter enforcement, among others.
The sheriffs said the MSP should reduce its patrols on roads in rural areas and leave that duty to sheriff's deputies and officers of local police departments, many of which already cover the same areas.
"There's a duplication of services," Hackel said.
Hackel and Bouchard, who met with sheriff's representatives from four counties Friday, said reducing the patrols would save lots of money, and that savings could be funneled into contemporary needs, most notably homeland security. The sheriffs denied they are attacking MSP, but believe the department is resistant to change.
"We want their support, we just think there's a better way of distributing it," Hackel said.
Mike Prince, a spokesman for the Michigan State Police, said Friday that MSP officials have not heard about the concerns and would not respond specifically.
Hackel and Bouchard said they would contact state officials this week about the issues.
The MSP operates on a $415 million budget, $277 million in state funds and the rest from federal and fees sources. There are 64 posts plus more than 30 satellite offices from which 1,125 troopers carry out their duties.
In Macomb and St. Clair counties, three state police posts in Romeo, New Baltimore and St. Clair in the early 1990s were consolidated into a post in Richmond, which patrols the roads and responds to calls in several northern Macomb communities.
Those townships are also patrolled and covered by Macomb County sheriff's deputies. While the smaller communities receive the coverage at no local cost, other communities, such as Macomb, Harrison and Washington townships, pay extra funds to have several deputies assigned to their borders.
Hackel said the state could save money by eliminating regular patrols in several townships and let his office cover the areas. Taxpayers would benefit because deputies on average earn a lower salary than troopers, he noted.
But by patrolling surface streets, troopers insufficiently patrol Interstate-94 and Interstate-696, Hackel said.
Hackel would like to see more state officers involved in the regional units, such as Macomb Area Computer Enforcement Team, which has no MSP investigators.
Lt. Robert Yorke, Richmond post commander, however, said he hasn't been asked to provide a detective on MACE.
The sheriffs also would like to see more effort to input DNA data from criminal suspects, since there is a 10-year backlog.
Prince, MSP spokesman, said the state can't afford it: "It's a national problem. Every state in the nation is dealing with a backlog."
Hackel and the MSP Richmond Post recently disagreed over jurisdiction in a homicide probe, but both Hackel and Yorke said Friday the two agencies get along.
"We're not against the state police," Hackel said.
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