October 21, 2018
Updated at 4:10 p.m. March 24

Standish City Council votes to disband city police department

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STANDISH — Beginning April 1, the city of Standish will not have its own independent police department to patrol the city limits.

During a special meeting held specifically to discuss the city police department March 23, city Manager Jerry Nelson said he recently met with police Chief Mark Christian, the department’s lone police officer, following a budget workshop, and that Christian was concerned about the department’s future budget-wise.

“I had a conversation with Mark Christian, the chief of police, the next morning and he had a bunch of questions, because he knew the budget and he knew how slim we were,” he said.

Nelson said eventually the discussion reached a point where he was contacting the city’s labor attorney to draw up a separation agreement. He said Christian told him he needed stability and would begin looking at his options job-wise.

“It just developed from there and to paraphrase a little, he said, ‘I’m going to begin looking anyways,’” Nelson said.

The agreement takes effect April 1, and includes six weeks of severance pay to Christian, Nelson said.

“After that six weeks’ severance he would have unemployment available,” he said.

Eliminating the police chief position would save the city about $73,000, according to Nelson. As part of the agreement, Christian would be available during the severance period to help resolve tickets or ongoing cases, Nelson said.

“He’s also going to agree to help disband with the evidence and the weapons and things like that,” he said. “He’s going to give us direction of what we’re going to do.”

Nelson told the Independent March 24 that Christian’s schedule varied during his years on the department. He said Christian worked five days per week, but the hours changed depending on the time of year.

“In the summer, it would probably be mostly three or four nights per week,” he said. “In the winter he would be two or three days per week.”

The hours not spent patrolling at night Christian spent taking care of paperwork at the office during the day or patrolling during the daytime, Nelson said.

Councilwoman Josette Rang, who organized a 5K race in the city for several years, said it was tough to see Christian go.

“Myself, I’ve had him work for my race,” she said. “He’s always been willing to help out with that. I’m sad to see him go.”

Nelson said the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department would continue to cover the city as it does currently, but Councilman Charlie Macaulay said he thought more police coverage would be needed.

“At night they only have one car out,” he said. “During the day they have multiple cars out. I’m worried about nighttime.”

Macaulay said he would like Nelson to contact the state police to see if more assistance might be possible.

“I think I’m going to recommend that you, as city manager, get in touch with the lieutenant up in West Branch and the post commander in Freeland and set up a meeting with them,” he said.

Arenac County Undersheriff Don McIntyre said the sheriff’s department handled the bulk of the calls in Standish.

“The chief was only one person working in the city,” he said. “The sheriff’s department was taking the majority of the calls anyway.”

“I don’t like to see anybody lose a job, though,” McIntyre said.

Information from Arenac County Central Dispatch shows there were 2,148 emergency calls in the city of Standish, with approximately 1,750 of those being police calls.

Of the roughly 1,750 calls for police assistance, more than 1,300 were responded to by the sheriff’s department. The city police department responded to 286 calls. The state police and tribal police were dispatched to the remainder of the calls.

McIntyre said there is a system in place to make sure emergency calls are handled. If the officer on duty is handling a priority call and more assistance is needed, central dispatch will reach out to the Michigan State Police or units such as Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police Department, Au Gres City Police and Sims Township Police, which are deputized with the sheriff’s department. If more help is needed, the sheriff’s department will call in more officers, McIntyre said.

“In an emergency, you’re going to get a response out of Arenac County,” he said. “Between the MSP, the sheriff’s department, our friends in Au Gres city and Sims Township, you’re going to get a response in an emergency. If all of those fail safes aren’t enough, we’ll start calling people in. I’m not concerned that Standish city is going to be lacking coverage.”

“We also get a lot of help from the tribal police when it’s needed,” McIntyre said.

Disbanding the police department requires more than the separation agreement between the city and Christian. The city will try to sell city police equipment, but the city’s police car, which is less than 2 years old, may not be sold right away. Mayor Ray Koroleski said it was purchased in part with 2 percent grant funds from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, and selling it outright might be frowned upon.

“Regarding the police car, we’re going to contact the tribe on that, because they were part of that on 2 percent,” he said.

Christian was on the city police department for approximately 10 years.

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David

I suggested this be done years ago. City is broke and police Dept is not essential. I commend the city for doing this

Monday, March 27, 2017 | Report this
js1963

David is spot on here. Police did NOTHING! No wait Im wrong. They did parades. Not police work just PR work to benefit themselves.

Sad that the Sheriff will have to pick up the slack... No wait they already have for a long long time

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 | Report this

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