2017-06-18 / Front Page

Lapeer Township to decide fate of policing

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna (left) and Undersheriff Jeremy Howe attended a Lapeer Township board meeting in May to talk with township officials about what they could offer the municipality through a contract. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna (left) and Undersheriff Jeremy Howe attended a Lapeer Township board meeting in May to talk with township officials about what they could offer the municipality through a contract. Photos by Andrew Dietderich LAPEER TWP. — Lapeer Township officials are expected to soon make a decision on the future of the municipality’s police department.

On Monday, the township board of trustees formed a committee to further study the matter and bring a recommendation to its next meeting in July.

The two options discussed were either contracting with the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. for policing services or hire a new police chief.

Township Supervisor Scott Jarvis noted the urgency of making a decision as the four officers the department had at the beginning of this year will all be retired by 2018.

“We need to make a decision… it needs to be made by July,” said Jarvis. “Everyone involved needs to know which direction to head.”


Lapeer Twp. Police Chief Jerry Gwyn is part of the committee studying whether the municipality should contract with the sheriff’s department or keep its own police department. Lapeer Twp. Police Chief Jerry Gwyn is part of the committee studying whether the municipality should contract with the sheriff’s department or keep its own police department. Around the county, the sheriff’s department already has four contract positions in Mayfield Township, three in Oregon Township, two in Deerfield Township, two in Attica Township, one in Marathon Township, and one in Arcadia Township.

In 2015, village of North Branch officials became the most recent municipality to contract the sheriff’s department. The village has two contracted positions.

Undersheriff Jeremy Howe said Lapeer Township officials reached out to the sheriff’s department, which views a potential contract with the township as a way of continuing to serve and protect the county in general.


Lapeer Township officials are reviewing plans to provide police service, whether hiring officers for its own department or contract with the sheriff’s department. 
Photo by Jeff Hogan Lapeer Township officials are reviewing plans to provide police service, whether hiring officers for its own department or contract with the sheriff’s department. Photo by Jeff Hogan The sheriff’s department already provides some services to Lapeer Township, such as when additional investigative resources are needed or handling calls on the weekend.

Those services would expand to include more routine matters such as road patrol and code enforcement through a new contract.

Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna, Howe, and Lt. Andy Engster were at the May 8 regular township board meeting, along with Lapeer County Commissioner Lenny Schneider.

The group took part in a discussion with township officials about the potential of a contract between the township and sheriff. At the time, Howe said it was early in the process.

The May 8 discussion centered on the logistics of Lapeer Township contracting with the sheriff’s department.

Jarvis asked McKenna if the possibility existed for Lapeer Township to have two deputies.

Jarvis also raised the possibility of retaining the township’s police department and beginning a new contract with the sheriff so that essentially there would be some overlap.

McKenna mentioned the phrase “a la carte” several times when discussing the kind of service his department could provide Lapeer Township.

Last Monday’s discussion largely centered on the financial aspects of making the change. (No representatives of the sheriff’s department were present.)

Township Clerk Dawn Walker prepared a cost comparison between the township maintaining its own department and contracting with the sheriff.

Based on her rough estimates the board discussed, it would cost about $8,000 a month for the township to keep its own department with two officers versus about $11,000 a month to contract with the county for two officers.

Actual costs aside, board members briefly touched on what option would deliver the highest value.

Topics such as levels of coverage, training, and available equipment were briefly touched on.

For example, law enforcement in Lapeer Township would receive the most up-to-date training through its affiliation with the sheriff.

Currently, Lapeer Township Police Chief Jerry Gwyn said, officers in the township are resistant to using some of the latest and greatest technology available to law enforcement.

“We got cameras in the cars…I’m not even sure they know how to turn them on,” Gwyn told the board.

Should the township decide to stick with its own department, Jarvis and Gwyn said an “unnamed” officer has stepped up to express interest in the possibility of taking on the job.

“I do have a guy that’s well-known to everybody in the police work that’s looking to try and take over from me,” Gwyn said. “But he doesn’t retire from his position until January.”

Gwyn said the unidentified individual’s goal is to have a position like the kind that might be available in Lapeer Township, and that he would “guarantee” working for the township for eight years (based on how long his wife plans to work before retiring).

With the need to make a decision and so many outstanding questions, the board formed the four-person committee to further research the scenarios and bring a recommendation back to the board.

In addition to Gwyn, the committee initially included Jarvis, and Trustees Bill Blaine and Phil Thick.

Because the township board consists of five members, a quorum would have been established, requiring committee meetings to be open to the public through the Open Meetings Act.

When The County Press asked Jarvis about when the committee meeting would be posted for the public, he said he would withdraw from participation.

The next regular board meeting is set for 8:30 a.m., Monday, July 10.

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