March 19, 2019 12:56 pm
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In what has been an ongoing concern for city officials of both Douglas and Saugatuck, the local police department continues to respond to calls outside of its jurisdiction although it gets no compensation for it, reported Saugatuck Council Member Barry Johnson at Monday night’s meeting.
Johnson, who is a member of the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Commission, also shared with colleagues the good news at the police department in the form of equipment recently obtained: a new breathalyzer, which translates to efficiency because officers will not have to travel to the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated.
Noting the issue of uncompensated police responses, Johnson said the department frequently responds to calls from Saugatuck Township, a municipality that doesn’t have its own police department. However, as explained by Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, the township draws from the “sheriff’s police force whenever necessary.”
The township is among other surrounding communities the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department services, (e.g., Laketown Township, Fennville, etc.) when there are emergency police calls.
Last month alone, the department responded to 13 calls outside of its jurisdiction.
The problem from Saugatuck and Douglas’ perspective, explained Johnson, is: “They (Saugatuck Township) don’t contribute to the cost of running the police department. We have a ‘mutual aid agreement’ with Allegan County; if the sheriff’s department doesn’t show up, we have to respond and have no problem doing so.
“We just wish the township would contribute to the cost because they do benefit from the service.”
Township officials say they are cognizant of the matter, and even gladly leased part of its building, next to the township hall, for a Michigan State Police Posts so as to have a police presence.
But as Rudich concedes, “They (Michigan State Police) don’t patrol this area very much.”
So what would it take for the township to get police service fully dedicated to it and thereby faster and better service?
“We would have to raise the millage,” said Rudich.
For Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department Chief Ken Giles it’s not a matter of finances or politics.
“We have a moral obligation to respond,” he said. “Of course, our officers know how to prioritize and respond to more urgent calls first, wherever that may be.”
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