COLUMN: Local law enforcement needs more funding
What is going on in our quaint college town?
In the past few months, I’ve received more calls from the Central Alert system than any individual friend or relative. The number 989-774-1500, once just a monthly source of annoyance when the system was being tested, now serves as a frequent reminder that Mount Pleasant is becoming less pleasant.
The first in this string of phone calls occurred in the early hours of Jan. 17, when Eric Lee Ramsey abducted a female student from the parking lot of the Student Activity Center, sexually assaulted her, set a house on fire and ended up being killed by police in Gaylord.
After this traumatic event, Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said, “Our community is changing; there’s no question about it,” and CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley said “America, over the years, is becoming a more violent society. We just have to keep preparing, keep on our toes, keep practicing and keep responding as we do.”
Now, here we are, one month and five armed robberies later, wondering how much more our community will change and what we can do differently to prepare ourselves.
We also wonder when and how this wave of crime will stop. Law enforcement has put the onus on students and citizens to “keep on our toes,” but this is a very obvious and not all that helpful piece of advice. However, local law enforcement agencies are doing all they can.
With the exception of the CMU Police Department (which is funded by the university), local law enforcement agencies are working on bare-bones budgets. Budget cuts have forced the Isabella County Sherriff’s Department to lay off five deputies since 2005. Likewise, the Mount Pleasant Police Department has been forced to lessen officer training and overtime.
Mount Pleasant Public Information Officer Jeff Thompson previously told Central Michigan Life that the recent increase in violence rates “reinforced (his department’s) belief that we do need more officers and detectives to handle the caseload.”
The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe currently distributes semi-annual two percent allocations of its revenue to Isabella County and local communities. The last allocation totaled nearly $2.3 million, but Isabella County’s $708,000 share went to the Commission on Aging. Perhaps it’s time to reallocate these funds to law enforcement.
After the events of Jan. 17, the CMU Police Department responded by having a more visible presence on campus, making us feel safe and comforted. Mount Pleasant should not be North Flint. With a university and a casino, we have sources of income to beef up the presence of law enforcement in our community.
Until local law enforcement agencies receive more funding, don’t let calls from Central Alert surprise you. Police officers must work with what they are given to keep us safe, and they haven’t been given much lately.