police

The nonprofit, MI-C.O.P.S., supports the families of Michigan's fallen officers.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

West Bloomfield Township this week lost a police officer in the line of duty—a tragic "first" for the community.

39-year-old Officer Patrick O'Rourke was responding to a "shots fired" call at a home in West Bloomfield. His partner says they thought they were coming to help a family in distress with a possible suicide. Instead, a blast of bullets through a bedroom door killed Officer O'Rourke.

He leaves behind his wife Amy and four small children. His funeral will be held tomorrow morning.

Diane Philpot knows the agony of losing a first responder in the line of duty.

Tyler Nickerson / Decriminalize GR

A group that’s trying to make marijuana possession in the City of Grand Rapids only a civil infraction turned in more than enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In Ann Arbor, fines for marijuana possession start at just $25 and are not more $100.

Tyler Nickerson is with the group known as Decriminalize GR. It collected more than 10,000 signatures during the petition drive.

Michigan Municipal League

Lansing’s mayor is scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, at least for now.

Mayor Virg Bernero included more than $400,000 in his budget proposal for next year to pay for design and engineering plans for a new consolidated police headquarters.

But Wednesday,  the mayor announced he wants to redirect that money to a fund to pay for 11 police officer positions currently supported by a federal grant that expires in 2015.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Rising pension costs may throw a monkey wrench into the city of Lansing’s plans to hire police officers next year.

Lansing’s mayor proposed using money from a special public safety millage to rehire nine laid off police officers.    But the mayor’s office released a draft report Monday which says the city will have to come up with nearly two million dollars next year to cover rising police and fire pension costs.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The haunting sounds of bagpipes echoed in the halls of the state capital this evening.

Police officers from across the state gathered inside the capital rotunda for the 19th annual  Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service.

The ceremoney honored a half dozen police officers from Michigan or with ties to Michigan who died in the line of duty last year.   Nationwide, 163 law enforcement officers were killed on the job last year.  Already this year, 2 Michigan law enforcement officers have died on the job. 

“The loss of these officers is a testament to the dangers and realities of police work," says Colonel Kristie Kibbey Etue,  the director of the Michigan State Police. 

National Police Week begins May 13th. 

555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios

A non-profit arts organization is setting up shop inside a vacant police precinct in southwest Detroit.

The old 3rd Precinct is now owned by the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios. The organization is run by volunteers and, according to it's website, provides "affordable studios and workspace, gallery space, exhibition programs, arts education programs, and an artist in residency program."

From the AP:

The 7,000-square-foot ex-precinct has been stripped to raw concrete. Its 21 jail cells remain intact.

555 wants to put in a gallery space, build seven private studio spaces and an Education and Programming Studio.

As for the jail cells, 555 says they're "ready to be used for creativity."

555 plans to hold a fundraiser in their new space this evening featuring "food and drink, live aerial performance and music."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

After 26 years on the job, Wayland police chief Dan Miller was fired this morning by the city's interim manager, according to a report by John Tunison of the Grand Rapids Press.

Miller believes the decision was political, and wasn't based on the severity of infractions he is alleged to have made.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hopes lawmakers will make room in the budget for his plan to hire 1,000 new police officers. Gov. Rick Snyder did not include Schuette’s plan in his executive budget proposal.

Schuette says state officials need to be forward-thinking with public safety.

“We have to be decisive, we need to be solution-oriented in this new Michigan, and that means in terms of this linkage between economic growth and public safety.”

Schuette would also like the state Legislature to toughen sentencing guidelines for repeat violent felons. Governor Snyder plans to deliver a special message on public safety next month.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is talking with city unions.  The talks may be critical to coming up with a way to solve the city’s multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown briefed the city council last night on where things stand on correcting the city’s financial troubles.   Flint faces an $11 million budget deficit this year.

MI State Police website

The Michigan State Police says more than 200 troopers have been trained to recognize autism and provide services.
    

The Mid-Michigan Autism Association has been working with state police to teach troopers how to communicate with autistic people as well as their families. The group says it's common for someone with autism to have contact with law enforcement, typically in situations that don't involve crimes.
    

The police chief at Eastern Michigan University has died in a suicide. The Washtenaw County sheriff's office says Greg O'Dell was found dead Friday just west of Ann Arbor. He was 54 years old.
    

O'Dell had recently returned to Ypsilanti as EMU's police chief after three months as public safety chief at the University of Michigan. He said he wanted to return to a job he loved.
    

EMU President Susan Martin says the campus is "shocked and saddened" by O'Dell's death. He was in law enforcement for 30 years, much of it with Ann Arbor police.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Some Ingham County sheriff’s deputies may soon be patrolling Lansing city streets.   

The sheriff’s department wants to assign up to four deputies to work part time in the capitol city.   

Budget problems forced the city to lay off 36 police officers earlier this year.   

Teresa Szymanski is Lansing’s chief of police.    She says the added officers would be welcome.   

“Would we like more?  Absolutely.   Is it good?  It’s very good," says Szymanski.   

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Vice President Joe Biden used a speech in Flint to chastise Congressional Republicans for stalling the President’s jobs bill.  

 Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote on the $447 billion bill last night.    The bill’s tax hike on millionaires was a major reason cited.  

The bill contains money for hiring firefighters and police officers. Biden talked about how budget cuts in recent years have slashed the number of police officers and firefighters on Flint streets.  

Flickr/Vampire Bear

A pilot with the Monroe County sheriff's office spotted many marijuana plants Saturday while flying over two corn fields in Milan Township, 60 miles west of Detroit.

Deputies counted 55 mature plants worth at least $25,000. The discovery is under investigation.

Federal drug agents from Toledo, Ohio, are also part of the case.

Lansing police reach out to the LGBT community

Jul 18, 2011
Nikonmani / Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a look at groups and various programs that are trying to improve the state. It's part of our series, "What's Working." In 2010 Detective Michelle Bryant became the Lansing Police Department’s first liaison to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. We speak to Detective Bryant this morning for our "What's Working" series.

City of Muskegon

Tony Kleibecker is leaving his post as Muskegon's public safety director.

From the Muskegon Chronicle:

Muskegon Public Safety Director Tony Kleibecker is returning to his roots at Michigan State University, accepting a university administrative position and leaving the city Aug. 31.

Kleibecker submitted his letter of resignation to Muskegon City Manager Bryon Mazade Wednesday morning, indicating he will end 11 years of service with the city. Kleibecker is leaving Muskegon to become assistant director for administration and communication with the MSU Police Department, he told his staff.

The Flint Police Department received a $1.2 million grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation. The grant will hire more police officers, pay for more equipment, and use community policing techniques.

Merry Morash, professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University said, "The focus on Flint is really because Mott Foundation, which is funding this, is highly invested in the city and wants to promote a very positive environment and Mott Foundation is located in Flint." 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For the first time, a state appointed emergency manager has permission to void a union contract in a Michigan city. The state Treasurer’s office gave its approval to Pontiac’s emergency manager Monday to void the city’s police dispatchers’ contract.   Pontiac’s policing duties are being taken over by the Oakland County sheriff’s department. 

Robert Sedler is a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University.  He believes the courts would find the decision to void the contract a ‘reasonable’ one. 

 “What I think makes this reasonable in the Pontiac situation is that it is part of a transfer of law enforcement from the city of Pontiac to the sheriff.”

 The Michigan legislature expanded the powers of state appointed emergency managers this year. 

There are numerous groups considering legal challenges to the law.

Local governments are coming to terms with the effects of the Great Recession as shrinking revenues are leading to police and fire layoffs in many parts of the state.

The Royal Oak Police Department is making cuts to its department. Going from 70 to 65 sworn officers.

This despite the concern over safety in Royal Oak.

From the Daily Tribune:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s mixed news today concerning the city of Lansing’s budget crisis.  City leaders have been trying to figure out how to deal with a projected 20 million dollar budget deficit.   

 N0w, city council vice president Kathie Dunbar says the city learned this week that its employee health care costs will rise 2 million dollars higher than expected next year. 

She says fortunately the state legislature has passed a budget plan that should guarantee the city 4 million dollars in state revenue sharing funds. 

The city of Lansing is facing a projected $20 million dollar budget deficit. 

On Monday, the city council is scheduled to vote on a budget intended to close that gap.   As it stands now, the city may have to lay off dozens of police officers and firefighters, as well as making other painful spending cuts to balance the budget.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing police officers are waiting to see if they will receive layoffs notices.  The city council next week is expected to approve a city budget that will include deep budget cuts in public safety.   The city is facing a 20 million dollar budget deficit.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Voters in Flint sent a mixed message on public safety on Tuesday. 

 Mayor Dayne Walling was glad to see voters renew a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers.  

 “I’m very pleased to see the voters have overwhelmingly supported the renewal of our police force.   The budget that was proposed to the city council…every dollar that we projected in that budget will now be able to be expected.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

This week, Flint residents will vote on two millages that could affect crime in their city.  The results may depend on whether voters are more concerned about taxes or about crime. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson voters will be asked next Tuesday if they want to merge their city police and fire departments.  It’s a decision that is dividing the southern Michigan city. Jackson, like many Michigan cities, is struggling to balance its budget. Tuesday’s vote to create a public safety department is a result of that. 

Interim City Manager Warren Renando says Tuesday’s vote is about better allocating what little money the city has left to spend.  

live WoodTVStream

Update 12:00 p.m.

Wood TV is carrying the press conference of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety live.

The slain officer was identified as Eric Zapata a 10 year veteran of the force. He had three children.

The police chief was visibly emotional when identifying Zapata as the officer who lost his life.

It was the first time the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has lost an officer in the line of duty.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the loss has shaken the department:

"We're a small group... We have to look out for each other. You become very close.. and when things like this happen, it hits hard."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

"We ain't cops anymore. We're librarians. We take reports. We don't fight crime."

That's what officer Steve Howe told New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff.

LeDuff rode along with Howe and wrote about the experience in his Sunday Magazine article "Riding Along With the Cops in Murdertown, U.S.A."

The desperation in Flint is well known. After several years of cuts to vital city services, the city is still looking at a projected budget deficit of $17 million.

LeDuff writes that the sign on the door of Flint's Police Headquarters says it all "Closed weekends and holidays."

LeDuff writes that another sign in town is a lie. He's talking about the sign on an archway that names Flint "Vehicle City."

But the name is a lie. Flint isn’t Vehicle City anymore. The Buick City complex is gone. The spark-plug plant is gone. Fisher Body is gone.

What Flint is now is one of America’s murder capitals. Last year in Flint, population 102,000, there were 66 documented murders. The murder rate here is worse than those in Newark and St. Louis and New Orleans. It’s even worse than Baghdad’s.

The murders in Flint continue to pile up. More than 20 so far this year.

Mayor Dayne Walling held a press conference recently saying "the killings and criminals must be stopped."

But who's going to stop them? LeDuff reports there are only six patrolmen working on a Saturday night in Flint and the city has laid off two-thirds of its police force in the last three years.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported that Flint's Public Safety Director Alvern Lock denied "that cuts to Flint’s police department have played a role in the increase in the city’s increase homicide rate."

But when reading LeDuff's piece, you have to wonder.

Detroit police officers are being told to exercise caution when it comes to social media.

Police have to follow the Department's Code of Conduct policy, which forbids officers to share transcripts, records or photos tied to an ongoing investigation, but the current police doesn't explicitly discuss sharing those items on social media.

That will soon change  after a Detroit police officer posted a crime-scene photo to his personal Facebook account last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre has taken administrative leave after State Police conducted searches at the Romulus police headquarters, his wife's tanning salon and other buildings associated with the police department.

The State Police searched the buildings for an investigation coordinated with the Wayne County prosecutor and the FBI.

Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert's statement is quoted in the Free Press article:

"Chief St. Andre's decision to go on administrative leave is motivated solely by his desire to ensure that the Police Department and the city can continue functioning without interference. His decision puts his long career in law enforcement in the backseat so the citizens of Romulus can get a full and fair investigation."

The Freep reports the investigation into the police department's special investigative unit was started after complaints from a Romulus officer more than a year ago.

No charges have been filed.

Update: March 16th, 11:18 a.m.

Michigan State police officials have not provided details on why they searched  buildings associated with the Romulus Police Department. State Police Inspector Garth Burnside told the Detroit News that the search warrants were part of an ongoing investigation with the Wayne County prosecutor and the FBI.

The Detroit News reports that the following locations were searched:

  • the Romulus police headquarters
  • the home of Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre
  • St. Andre's wife's tanning salon
  • a building housing Police Department records
  • and a residence Burnside declined to identify.

The Detroit News spoke with a lawyer who sued the Police Chief and the City  of Romulus "over the disappearance of $300,000 worth of auto parts seized by Romulus police." The lawyer's client said the auto parts were in a trailer seized by police. According to the News, the Romulus police contended there were no auto parts in the trailer and the case was dismissed in January 2010.
 

March 15th, 11:36 a.m.

The Michigan State Police are saying little about a search warrant served today at the Romulus Police Department.  State Police Inspector Garth Burnside would only confirm that state troopers, along with FBI agents and the Wayne County Prosecutors Office served the warrant at 7 a.m. this morning.

Burnside says the search of the Romulus Police Department is part of an ongoing investigation.

He declined to say what is the focus of the investigation.

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