EATON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) – Eaton County commissioners and local leaders are concerned as the sheriff’s office announced earlier on Thursday that night patrols will be handled by Michigan State Police troopers starting late next month.
County leaders said Sheriff Tom Reich is in a tough spot as more officers either leave the department or retire.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeremy Whittuim said the county will work with other departments to ensure someone is there to answer the call.
“The optimal situation would be the state police can extend services into Eaton County and allow two cars to service out-county,” Whittum said.
As retirements and new jobs pull Eaton County deputies from the road, Whittum said a partnership with state police will have to help fill in the gaps.
Whittum said the arrangement with troopers would depend on MSP’s staffing levels and major calls for help.
“We have a problem and we have a problem nationally. But this is our department. It hurts,” said Whittum.
In a statement sent to 6 News, the Chair of the County’s public safety committee, Tim Barnes, calls for commissioners to review the option of retention bonuses for deputies and corrections officers.
He said the Board of Commissioner’s actions are leaving “citizens… in harm’s way.”
Kimberly Kenyon is a trustee for the village of Vermontville. She said she’s glad to see state police step up, but hopes a better long-term solution can be worked out.
“We can’t afford to have our own law enforcement agency. I feel like the commissioners are not too sympathetic with us,” Kenyon said.
She said state funding should be an option. In the meantime, she’s worried about the most vulnerable in the community.
“People are going to have to prepare if they have not already to protect themselves and their families,” she said.
Whittum said the county is waiting to hear back from the police union to start negotiations on a new contract aiming to improve pay and benefits. Reich was unavailable for comment.