ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — During the economic downfall in 2008, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office was forced to let go of 15 percent of its law enforcement staff, said Sheriff Frank Baker. With that decision, many resources were cut too.
“Actually we went to as low as 46 for a period of time,” said Sheriff Baker. “Then through the course of working with our county board of commissioners, we were able to restore some positions.”
Since then they’ve hired six more deputies, Sheriff Baker said. However they’re looking to employ more. The Sheriff’s Office has been in talks with the commissioners about gaining the funds to grow their staff to meet the ongoing needs of the county.
“Our staffing has become stagnant,” said Sheriff Baker. “Although our demand has gotten greater, we have more calls for service. Our population’s growing.”
He said the discussions have been going on since the summer. They’ve been attending town halls to alert the public of their need for funding and to get people's input. One of the areas they’d like to use the money for is to resuscitate their investigative unit which they once had 10 years ago.
“We used to have a investigator dedicated to domestic violence,” said Sheriff Baker. “We use to have more general case detectives investigating those serious crimes and as a result of trying to keep a minimum number of patrol cars on the road, we’ve eliminated those services.”
Investigators back then dedicated their time solely to delving into violent crimes, he said. There’s been a spike in those crimes recently and he’d like to tackle them so that cases can lead to prosecutions. He’d also like to have more patrol cars in all the areas they serve, should a deputy ever need help during investigations.
“Officers aren’t safe if they don’t have adequate backup arriving in a timely way,” said Sheriff Baker. “It’s better for the community as a whole too, just to know that law enforcement presence is there if you need it.”
Sheriff Baker said he believes the goal of hiring more deputies is attainable. One of the ways they’re looking to achieve this goal is through a millage dedicated to law enforcement or criminal justice. However, it's something that’s only been discussed at this point. No decisions have been made. They’re focused right now on getting the word out that funding is needed.
“We want to be back to the point where we can feel that we’re actually being proactive and able to make a difference in our communities,” said Sheriff Baker.