BRANCH COUNTY, Mich. – The Branch County Sheriff’s Department announced Tuesday that they will no longer have staff patrolling the streets at night.
The decision to remove deputies from that shift comes after a series of cutbacks that were put into place after the county cut the department’s budget by nearly $1million.
“We’re an agency that provided police services for this county since 1835, and ya know, we’re pretty proud about that and we’re pretty pleased at being able to do that,” Branch County Sheriff John Pollack, said. “It is heartbreaking. It’s hard for us to go out in the community and have somebody say, ‘jeez Id’ like to see your cars’ and have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have the man power.’”
To fill the gap, three troopers from the Michigan State Police Post in Coldwater will be pulled to Branch County.
“We are moving one of our day cars from here to the midnight shift,” MSP Lieutenant David Wood, said. “We’re also grabbing one person from Saint Joseph County and one person from Calhoun county.”
Lt. Wood said the post has enough staff to move the troopers to a different area without compromising the rest of their district.
“In the last year, Gov. Snyder has been building up the state police and we’ve been running quite a few academies,” Lt. Wood said. “In the last year, the department has placed 10 new troopers in our post area. So, with the addition of those 10, we haven’t really taken away from any place, we’re just realigning where the resources need to be.”
Meanwhile, in Branch County, Sheriff Pollack said there is a cause for concern.
“It provides a false sense of security,” Sheriff Pollack said. “The state police are controlled by the state, they’re controlled by The Governor, they’re controlled by the Legislature… If they decide, for whatever reason, they need these troops somewhere else, they’re going to put them there.”
Prior to the budget cut, Sheriff Pollack said there were 23 deputies patrolling the streets. That number, he said, has significantly decreased.
“If something should happen and those troops get pulled we would have eight deputies to patrol and provide services for 42 thousand citizens in this county,” Sheriff Pollack said.
One of those citizens, Lisa Mobley, said she voted in favor of a millage last November, that would’ve helped staff the department should it have passed.
“The millage was misunderstood,” Mobley said. “It wasn’t even an increase, it was just a renewal and I don’t think people understood that. “
A new year would bring another chance to have that money added back to the budget, but Sheriff Pollack said, he doesn’t think the department will find any relief anytime soon.
“We have never gone this long and it looks like what the county commissioners are telling me that it may go on for another year at this level.”
In the meantime, he said he’s grateful for the help from fellow law enforcement at the MSP post.
“I thnk they’re doing a great job. They’re doing all that they can,” Sheriff Pollack said. “A few years ago, they wern’t in this position where they could’ve provided this patrol, but right now they are. So, in that respect, we’re lucky.”