Douglas City Manager Wants Saugatuck Officials To Pay For His City's Police Department Responses In The Neighboring City; Saugatuck City Manager Says As A Mutual Aid Agreement Member No Payment Is Owed
When the City of Saugatuck opted to separate itself from the joint police department with the City of Douglas earlier this year, it relinquished its right to be a party to the mutual aid agreement which numerous regional municipalities are signatories to, according to Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
That position by LeFevere was has been unequivocally repudiated by Saugatuck city officials who say the Douglas City Manager is simply still stewing over the fact that Saugatuck earlier this year decided to contractits police services with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office to save taxpayers money.
The mutual aid agreement calls for police departments outside a participating member’s jurisdiction to render aid and service during emergency situations to each other when necessary at no cost to one another.
LeFevere’s statements were made to The Local Observer in the context of a discussion about the City of Douglas continuing to pursue monetary compensation from the City of Saugatuck for out-of-jurisdiction police service calls Douglas officials say their police department officers responded and assisted on.
Douglas’ move follows a new police department cost-recovery policy and out-of-jurisdiction protocol created in July.
In a related development, Saugatuck Township also has not yet responded to a $101.87 invoice from Douglas for July police service rendered in the township.
City of Saugatuck officials and their legal counsel, Jeffrey Slugget with the firm Bloom Sluggett, PC, continue to say Saugatuck is by no means legally liable for any compensation to Douglas as police service assistance rendered by the Douglas Police Department is covered by the mutual aid agreement, which both Douglas and Saugatuck are signatories to.
Douglas in September sent Saugatuck an invoice for $128.22 for two July Douglas Police Department responses.
And more recently, Douglas officials have advised their Saugatuck counterparts that Saugatuck will need to reimburse Douglas if they want Douglas Police Department officers to participate and testify in the prosecution of a criminal defendant charged with stealing a car from a residence in Saugatuck, evading police, operating under the influence of drugs and driving with a suspended license.
LeFevere said he does not know yet how much resources and what costs will need to be expended for its police officers to work with the Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office in that criminal case.
Some Saugatuck officials say that threat by LeFevere is basically an attempt at blackmail to get Saugatuck to pay the disputed police bill.
Either way, LeFevere indicated that that incident occurred before Saugatuck’s decision to separate from the joint police department and has lapsed into the present time after the breakup of the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department.
“Given this incident occurred in Saugatuck, you need to let us know if you want police officers from the Douglas Police Department to support this prosecution,” LeFevere wrote Saugatuck officials in a Nov. 6 letter.
“If so, the City of Saugatuck will need to agree to reimburse the City of the Village of Douglas for time spent by Douglas Police Department officers in supporting the prosecution,” added LeFevere.
Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier responded to LeFevere with his own letter.
“The reimbursement process suggested in the November 6th letter would fundamentally alter the current processes in place utilized by law enforcement providers in Allegan County,” noted Harrier.
“Saugatuck is not unwilling to participate in such conversations, but in our opinion, this should be done in the context of our current mutual aid structure and not be limited to Douglas and Saugatuck,” Harrier wrote, in part.
Asked by The Local Observer if the prosecution action he is asking compensation for would not, indeed, fall under mutual aid, LeFevere said, “Mutual aid refers to backup officers in the field for active calls during emergency situations. This is not an emergency situation, it’s a prosecution. It entails Douglas police officers’ time and energy, going into an administrative function.”
He further added: “Saugatuck is no longer an active party to mutual aid because they can’t provide mutual aid.”
Told that Saugatuck officials say they are indeed a signatory to the mutual agreement by virtue of the fact that the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department was a signatory and Saugatuck’s police force consists of Allegan County Sheriff deputies, LeFevere responded with, “You don’t become a party to the agreement by association.”
He further noted that the agreement’s language stipulates that the municipal signatories themselves must “direct and control” their police force.
“The deputies in Saugatuck are directed and controlled by the (Allegan County) Sheriff’s Department, not Saugatuck,” said LeFevere.
Harrier responded, saying: “Regarding prosecution costs of any law enforcement incidents that occurred while Saugatuck was under contract with Douglas, the city’s position is that cost associated with officers attending court at a later date were built into the monthly cost for services that the City of Saugatuck was billed under the previous contact and was already paid.”
“Law enforcement personnel have a legal duty as sworn police officers in Allegan County to comply with any court-ordered summons or to participate in prosecution matters they were involved in or assisted with regardless of jurisdiction,” said in response to LeFevere’s statements.