public safety

A Detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit will soon have a new fleet of emergency vehicles.

An order released by emergency manager Kevyn Orr will allow the city to accept corporate donations of vehicles.

Orr determined that this order will "play a vital role in ensuring continuity of essential services and restoring financial stability to the City of Detroit."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids is waiting before it implements a charter amendment that decriminalizes marijuana possession. Voters passed the initiative last November.

But the Kent County prosecutor is suing the city to prevent it from taking effect. The prosecutor argues it’s against state and federal laws for Grand Rapids police officers to issue only a civil infraction for marijuana possession. It would be sort of like a parking ticket. Ann Arbor has had similar rules for decades.

The prosecutor tried to get a restraining order to stop the city’s administration from implementing the charter, while the judge heard the merits of the case.

But Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan said it was okay for the city to make the change before he decides the case. Sullivan declined the restraining order because he said the prosecutor couldn’t prove it would cause any immediate harm.

Mayor George Heartwell, one of a few elected city leaders who supported the charter change, said he was “pleased” by that ruling. In late January, Heartwell said the city would implement the change within about a month.

But now, Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the city will wait for a decision on the actual merits of the case.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

The so-called quick response vehicles are a cross between a four-wheel-drive SUV used to respond to medical emergencies, and fire engines with all the equipment to put out fires.

Grand Rapids’ Deputy Fire Chief Frank Verburg says the department will deploy three of the quick response vehicles for now. They have a 300-gallon water tank and a small fire suppression foam system.

Fire stations across the state are being left abandoned as fire departments shrink and consolidate. Now a man hopes to transform one of those vacant stations in Flint into a homeless shelter.

John Bone says he's transforming an eye sore into a place where up to 100 people in need can find a bed and a shower.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The impact of economic problems are often likened to waves. And the waves of Michigan's economic crisis are still rolling up onto the shores in cities around the state.

The Detroit News looked at the numbers of police cuts and how communities react to these cuts.

The data from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards show that since 2003, the state has lost more than 2,000 police positions in total.

Communities react to the cuts by completely disbanding their departments, as Pontiac did, or by trying to raise more revenue.

But as the events in the struggling city of Benton Harbor show, residents are not always willing to tax themselves more to keep their police departments intact.

From the Detroit News:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

All the metal folding chairs in the building still weren't enough for the hundreds of residents who showed up at Tuesday night's public hearing.

Benton Harbor’s Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris says officials from the state treasury department will ultimately decide if city residents will pay a special fee to save its police and fire departments. The city lost 20-percent of its income after voters rejected a millage last month.

Benton Harbor Public Safety Captain Dan McGinnis made the case for the fee. He pointed to a major drop in violent crime this year and cost savings from combining the police and fire departments.

“I’ll leave you with this; no one knows Benton Harbor’s streets like we do. Bottom line, no one knows,” McGinnis said.

User Asher196 / Wikimedia Commons

In Bay City, police officers are being trained to fight fires.

That’s after the city’s commission voted to merge the police and fire departments into one Public Safety Department on Monday.

The move means police officers will fight fires in addition to their normal duties.

Fourteen of the city’s 44 full-time firefighters will be laid off. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris will consider charging property owners a special fee to pay for the city’s police department. The decision comes two weeks after voters rejected a millage renewal worth 20-percent of the city’s income.

At a press conference earlier this week, Harris outlined four rather dismal options; including eliminating the police department or asking the state to just allow Benton Harbor to declare bankruptcy.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Two weeks after voters in Benton Harbor rejected a millage renewal that represents about 20-percent of the city’s revenue, the city’s emergency financial manager is laying out a few grim options.

EFM Joe Harris says one option is eliminating the police force and contracting public safety through the Berrien County Sheriff's Department; similar to what the City of Pontiac did recently.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint voters face a tough choice on Election Day.

Agree to a big property tax increase…or face even more cuts to the city’s overburdened police and fire departments.

On November Sixth, Flint voters will decide if they are willing to pay an additional 6 mills on their property taxes or about 79 dollars extra a year for the average home owner.    

Supporters say about five million dollars would be raised for police and fire protection.

Flint set a record for homicides two years ago.     And could do it again this year.   Flint’s arson rate has exploded as well.

Getting along with your neighbors isn’t always easy. So Governor Rick Snyder came up with a pretty simple plan to get townships, counties and cities to find new ways to work together; give them some kind of incentive, specifically, money.

Michigan Department of Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says these Competitive Grant Assistance Grants are incentives to get neighboring cities, townships and counties to work together in new ways.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint Emergency Manager Mike Brown says the city plans to work more with the state police, as well as local and federal prosecutors, to fight the city’s crime problem.

The plan calls for establishing Flint not only as a ‘safe city’ in reality, but also in people’s perception.

Using outside law enforcement help is a short term part of the plan.   Long term, Brown says the city needs to raise millions of dollars in new revenue to hire more police officers and firefighters.

Flickr/York College of PA

The shootings at Virginia Tech happened five years ago this month. That event caused many colleges and universities to reevaluate safety issues on campus.

Pat Gotschalk is associate dean of students at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  She says after the Virginia Tech shooting, her university created what they call an “early intervention team.” The team is made up of staff members who identify students who may be struggling.

Gotschalk says originally the team looked for students with academic problems. But over time, they’ve broadened their focus. She says now they deal with students struggling with behavioral, conduct, mental health, or adjustment issues.

The team reaches out to about one-hundred students each year and helps connect students with counselors or support services. Gotschalk says most large schools and universities have programs that are similar.

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.

miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids voters could decide if people caught with marijuana should only be charged with a civil infraction, instead of a criminal charge. A group of residents begins collecting signatures Friday to put the measure on the November ballot in the city.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In that city, people caught with marijuana pay just a $25 fine for the first offense, but get no higher than $100.

The proposed charter change reads in part;

Gov. Rick Snyder delivered a special address on public safety this week. His plan calls for fighting crime in some of the state’s most violent cities.

The 34 point plan includes hiring 180 additional state troopers, increasing staffing at crime labs, decreasing urban blight, and linking welfare benefits to school attendance.

(courtesy of policemag.com)

 Governor Rick Snyder is expected to call for spending $15 million to improve police departments in some of Michigan’s most dangerous cities.    The governor will lay out his plan on Wednesday in Flint.

The FBI ranks Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw among the ten American cities with the highest violent crime rates. 

Gerald Cliff is the Chief of Police in Saginaw.    He knows what he would like to hear the governor say..

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder plans to call for $4.5 million to reopen the Flint city lockup to free space in the Genesee County Jail.

The Flint Journal reports Tuesday the proposal is among those the Republican governor is expected to unveil Wednesday morning during his public safety plan at the Flint City Hall Annex.

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are "laughing at the system."

Snyder says it's unacceptable that Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.

His plan's expected to include $15 million for what he has called law enforcement "enhancements." He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms.

Russ Climie / Tiberius Images

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder plans to lay out how he hopes to reduce crime during an upcoming special address.

His office said Monday that the Republican governor will unveil his public safety plan at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Flint City Hall Annex.

Snyder said earlier this year that it's unacceptable that Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.

His plan's expected to include an additional $15 million for what he has called "enhancement" of law enforcement. He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms to help former criminals gain skills and jobs.

Shrinking state and local budgets have left the state with 3,400 fewer law enforcement officers since September 2001.

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.

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