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Stateside: Dwindling budgets affect Michigan police departments

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
Pontiac police car

As city budgets dwindle, Michigan’s police departments are making cuts to their programs.

“Every police department in the state is smaller today than it was ten years ago,” said Robert Stevenson.

Stevenson, who is Executive Director of Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said this is due to a combination of a reduction in revenue and reduced property tax values.

“When there is less money coming in, there has to be reductions and typically, public safety, police and fire take up more than 50% of a city’s total expenditures, therefore they’re hit the hardest.”

He saw few immediate solutions to the cuts.

“Unfortunately the only real solution, especially short-term, would be a millage. Projections are that it may take up to 20 years for the property values to fully recover in Michigan.”

Stevenson said departments could also find ways to police on a smaller budget.

“Typically, cities want to be in control of their own police departments. So when we see these combined dispatch centers there is usually a fair amount of opposition from the city residents…”

According to Stevenson, there is less time now for departments to spend patrolling traffic.

“There has been a rather significant reduction in drunk driving arrests…when we have less police officers on the roadways what happens is they have a higher percentage of obligated time…therefore they have less time for just random patrol,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson echoed the frustration of many fellow officers.

“It’s frustrating knowing we can protect our citizens better if we had more resources available.”

A lot of cities are starting to look at the combination of fire and police departments, said Stevenson.

“If I was a local citizen and I wasn’t aware of what was going on, I would contact the police department and see what has happened in their police department.”

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