Scottville needs to explore more police options

April 1, 2013

Our view.

What is the best option for the future of police coverage in Scottville? This is a topic that the Scottville Public Safety Committee will be discussing tonight during its meeting following the regular meeting of the city commission.

See the related story for details.

One of the advantages of living in a city is that you receive certain services. These services include public works, refuse pick-up, water and sewer and fire and police protection. One of the appeals of living in a place like Scottville is a small town relationship between police and the populous.

For example, when a resident of Scottville leaves their home for an extended period of time the resident can register with the police department for regular patrols of the property. The police will pay extra attention to the home and will even check out the property from time to time. The police also perform “door checks” with the downtown businesses, making sure the doors are locked after hours.

The current agreement between Ludington and Scottville has shown an increase in coverage and professionalism of the Scottville department. Because the Ludington captain or chief can bring paperwork into the courthouse, in place of a Scottville officer, this means more coverage in town. The downside of this comes down to round-the-clock supervision and consistency between the two departments. Basically, this has been a good agreement. Chief Barnett provides a high standard in modern police leadership and his administration over the Scottville Police Department has been a good move.

Moving away from this agreement may not be such a good move. We believe the city’s elected officials have acted in haste in not trying to compromise with Ludington further on this contract. To not even have it on the table anymore is not serving the citizens of Scottville with all the best options.

With that said, let’s review the other options:

One option is to hire a part-time police chief. It has not yet been defined what all the roles of this chief would be. It would be our hope that this chief would not only oversee administration of the department but would also be on the streets working as a patrol officer as the former full-time chief once did.

We might suggest that this person also be hired as a part-time zoning enforcement officer. There are multiple properties in the city of Scottville that are in violation of the zoning ordinance. Cleaning up these properties would make the city more enticing to new residents (and would thus increase property values — and tax revenues). The zoning portion of this person’s salary could be paid partially through fines collected for violators, this is not an unusual practice. The other portion could be paid for through the $10,000 that is being shaved off of the police budget for next year.

There are two options on the table with the sheriff’s department. We believe neither of these options are good choices for the city. The reason for this has nothing to do with the sheriff’s department but rather has to do with the fact that Scottville would only keep one full-time police officer and will have part-time officers.

We do not think this is a wise choice. With these options, it means during the day shift the full-time officer will spend part of his time driving back and forth to the courthouse in Ludington. This means Scottville wouldn’t have coverage during those times. Who would the part-time officers answer to? Who would the full-time officer answer to? Who will oversee training of the officers? Who will oversee policy? What happens when a life and death decision has to be made, who will the part-time officer call?

Again, for the past two years Scottville’s police department has made strides in moving forward. There have been improvements made to the police station and the technology in the patrol cars has been brought into the 21st century. We must assure that we do not move backwards.

If you live in or own property in the city of Scottville, you need to attend the pubic safety meeting tonight, it follows the city commission meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Let you voice be heard.

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