Today, 16 percent fewer police officers roam the streets of Michigan than a decade ago.
Meanwhile, crime and service calls are on the rise throughout Isabella County, and local law enforcement are not strangers to budget cuts. At the Isabella County Sheriff’s Department, cuts have led to five laid-off deputies since 2005.
“What happens is our current deputies have to pick up slack,” Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said. “Calls for service have been increasing. They take more calls (and) handle more problems; a lot of the work has to be shared among deputies.”
According to a recent Detroit Free Press report, 2013 could be another tough year for budget cuts, layoffs or consolidations as police departments scramble to adjust to smaller budgets.
Mioduszewski said he hopes 2013 won’t bring further budget cuts to his department, but only time will tell.
“We’re just able to keep up. If we lose any one else, we will have lengthy delays for the citizens,” he said. “Overall, I think we’re doing the best we can. Our deputies work extremely hard by getting to the next call, given our staffing issues.”
Michigan’s police force has cut 3,642 officers since 2001, leaving 18,849 officers statewide, the Free Press reported.
At the Mount Pleasant Police Department, budget cuts have been handled differently. Rather than laying off officers, training and overtime has been lessened to save money.
Even though the uncertain economy has not had a negative effect on the MPPD’s staff yet, if things do not improve soon, bigger changes will have to take place, Public Information Officer Jeff Thompson said.
“Every year, budget is an issue,” he said. “We have had to make changes in how we spend our money. Those changes have come in the form of less training, less participation in specialized units and less overtime.”
However, even with 30 well-trained and experienced officers, Thompson said 2012′s increased violence rates prove hiring more officers would help.
“The number of incidents reinforced our belief that we do need more officers and detectives to handle the caseload,” he said.
Another aspect removed due to budget cuts is allowing certain detectives and officers to take home a police car overnight.
Currently, the MPPD has four take-home cars used by the four police and fire administrators, Thompson said. When times were good, an additional five take-home cars were used by detectives, Youth Services Unit school liaison officers and the public information officer.
“It costs money for gas and wear and tear for an officer to drive a department car home,” he said. “There are some police positions, though, that could justify the expense by an officer’s response time to a crime scene.”
Like the MPPD, the Central Michigan University Police Department has not had to lay off officers due to budget cuts.
Lt. Cameron Wassman said budget isn’t as big of an issue for the university police department because they receive money from CMU, rather than from a city or a county.
“We fare pretty well,” he said. “I’ve been here for 12 years, and our staffing numbers have remained consistent.”