Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

More sheriff's department cuts, and some more questions

6. July 2007 • Chuck Warpehoski
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According to the Ann Arbor News, “Washtenaw County will hire nine fewer Sheriff’s deputies next year due to increasing costs.”

According to the News, “the news surprised few, as the cost per deputy will rise from $109,871 this year to $136,503 in 2008 and to $141,963 in 2009, according to the contracts.”

I’m not surprised by the loss of deputies, but after going to the Ypsi parade last Wednesday, I am surprised by a few other things:

  • I was surprised to see a Sheriff’s Department Cadillac SUV
  • I was surprised to see deputies on horseback
  • I was surprised to see a Sheriff’s Department SWAT-team urban assault vehicle (I think that’s what it was, it was like a tank without a gun turret).

Please forgive my ignorance here, but is it normal for a county the size of Washtenaw to be equipped like this?

  1. And my other question is, is it normal for a Sheriff to plaster his name on everything?

    On the Cadillac SUV, there was a magnetic sign with his name. Fair enough.

    But the horses were carrying a Sheriff’s Dept. flag with his name on it, and his name was stenciled on the armored urban assault vehicle.

    Please fill me in here, is this kind of thing normal?

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jul. 7 '07 - 03:57AM    #
  2. Chuck, this A2 News article is no longer available online. The article describes the vehicle you reference in your third bullet above as an “armored personnel carrier”. I feel safer already…

    Man, 72, held in standoff 4-hour incident disrupts Ypsilanti Twp. neighborhood

    Saturday, June 25, 2005 BY KHALIL E. HACHEM

    News Staff Reporter

    The standoff began around 10:30 a.m., when deputies responded to a 911 call from a neighbor who complained that a man was pointing a rifle at him after a dispute, said Cmdr. David Egeler. A man at a house in the 2500 block of Hearthside Drive pointed a gun at the deputies, and then refused to leave his house.

    No shots were fired, and the man, whose name was not released Friday, was arrested around 2:30 p.m., Egeler said.

    In the meantime, the sheriff’s department poured resources into the area, including more than 30 deputies, more than a dozen police officers from area departments and an armored personnel carrier.

    The neighborhood also filled with staff and vehicles from area fire departments and Huron Valley Ambulance, surprising neighbors and disrupting their routines.

    Joann Barenschwer, who lives in the neighborhood, said she was particularly surprised to see the personnel carrier in the street.

    “I didn’t know what was going on,’‘ she said. Joe Schmitigal, who lives next door to the man who was arrested Friday, said he woke about 11 a.m. to find deputies with guns moving through his backyard. He said officers tossed a cell phone to his neighbor and began negotiating with him.

    Egeler said the man who was arrested could be charged with two counts of felonious assault: one for pointing the gun at a neighbor and one for pointing a gun at a deputy.

    The man was taken to the Washtenaw County jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned this weekend, Egeler said.

    Egeler said the man’s wife was with him during the standoff, but was not held against her will. Egeler also said there were possibly two young people in the house who left shortly after the standoff began. He said he was not sure of their ages.

    Egeler said he does not know if the man has a criminal record, but that deputies had been called to the house twice earlier this year for minor incidents.

    Members of the man’s family who were at the scene declined to answer questions.

    Schmitigal said he did not know his elderly neighbor, but had seen him in the backyard. Schmitigal left his house around 2 p.m., before the standoff ended, he said.

    “The police were yelling at me to stay in the house, but I have somewhere to go,’‘ he said.

    Jim Orow, owner of a party store on Hearthside Drive, said the neighborhood normally is a quiet place and everyone is friendly.

    “I’m surprised that something like this happens,’‘ Orow said.

    Khalil E. Hachem can be reached at or (734) 482-3225.

    © 2005 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission

    Copyright 2005 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 7 '07 - 04:30PM    #
  3. Chuck, per your questions in #1 – “County Sheriff” is a political office, elected just like a City Council member. As are the County Prosecutor, County Clerk, and County Drain Commissioner.

    With that in mind, I don’t think it’s so surprising to see the Sheriff’s name stenciled on everything in sight.

       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '07 - 06:05PM    #
  4. There was a little picture of Sheriff Minze on the gaspump, telling me not to drive off without paying, or else. I paid for my gas. But I probably would have paid for it, anyway.

       —Michael    Jul. 7 '07 - 06:51PM    #
  5. Good point, Murph, but I have to admit, I’m glad that Janis Bobrin hasn’t figured that out. I wouldn’t want to see her putting her name on every county drain. (okay, I admit, having your name on an armored personnel carrier is a lot more impressive than having it on a drain).

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jul. 9 '07 - 02:03AM    #
  6. Somehow I always think of Sheriffs, while elected, of being above politics and name-plastering… Maybe Ottawa County never had egotistic Sheriffs.

    That aside, there are counties much smaller than Washtenaw (in population) that have the same amount of heavy equipment. Often, it’s used military equipment that the feds offer up practically free. Whether it’s necessary or not, that’s another question.

    As for horses, many departments are getting rid of them or are relying on all-volunteer staffing because they are so costly and rarely used. Ottawa and Allegan Counties (West Michigan) both have all-volunteer mounted police.

    GM has a history of donating funky cop cars to cities near Detroit. Free publicity for those who like the police…

       —paul    Jul. 9 '07 - 06:42AM    #
  7. According to the News, “the news surprised few, as the cost per deputy will rise from $109,871 this year to $136,503 in 2008 and to $141,963 in 2009, according to the contracts.”

    Can somebody explain why costs per deputy are scheduled to rise to such a great extent in such a short time? 30% in 2 years seems pretty high.

       —mw    Jul. 9 '07 - 07:21PM    #
  8. The County has raised the cost, over vehement objections, to fund an unnecessary expansion to the County Jail.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 9 '07 - 07:41PM    #
  9. “Can somebody explain why costs per deputy are scheduled to rise to such a great extent in such a short time? 30% in 2 years seems pretty high.”

    One word. Union.

       —imjustsayin    Jul. 10 '07 - 05:19AM    #
  10. According to what I’ve read, the cost of the deputies was being subsidized until recently. In theory, these rates are closer to the actual cost of the deputies.

       —KEF    Jul. 10 '07 - 05:47AM    #
  11. Unions are not enjoying 30% raises, execs maybe…

       —eileenie    Jul. 10 '07 - 03:24PM    #
  12. In response to the question posed in post #7 (mw), the Board of Comissioners acted in 2005 to increase the costs passed along to local units who contract for dedicated county police patrols.

    Basically, KEF’s desription is correct. Still, I thought I would weigh in with some useful links that might help explain the issue to those interested in the arcane workings of local government financing.

    In September of 2005, the County Board of Commissioners acted on this resolution.

    Posted along with the resolution and proposed contract is a brief history and description of the issue. Also, at the end of the document is a summary that you may find useful. This discussion is a bit dated at this point, but it is perhaps the most centralized description of the reasons that led to the county passing along a greater percentage of the costs of police services.

    Subsequently, the Board of Commissioners considered and passed this resolution that modified our earlier action by capping the overtime liability (2007 only) for the townships and extending our deadlines for contracting.

    The cost of putting a deputy on the road, including wages, pension, health care, training, supervision, facilities, equipment, insurance, dispatch and overtime is significant. We’ve looked at many different formulae and methodology for estimating those costs and we will continue to do so. Still, whether you roll up the costs starting with salary or whether you take the department-wide costs and divide those by the number of road patrol deputies – we get the same answer: good police protection is expensive. The 60% of county residents paying the full cost of local police departments plus their portion of the County Sheriff’s Department understand that just as well as the 40% of the population that is being asked to shoulder roughly 75% of the costs of providing their police patrols.

       —Jeff Irwin    Jul. 11 '07 - 10:45PM    #
  13. Thanks for the explanation Jeff. As a property owner in AA, I am happy to ask the townships to pay their fair share of police protection. I’m already paying for city police and sheriffs.

       —Cooler Heads    Jul. 12 '07 - 03:37PM    #
  14. In 2003, the county board hired an independent agency to determine the real cost of providing police patrols. Northwestern University determined the actual costs and a long term commitment was made to all the townships that would gradually increase the costs over 10 years to account for inflationary increases, thereby insuring that the townships pay for 100% of the costs of the deputy patrols.

    When the county board decided to fund expansion of the county jail, after the voters turned it down, it rejected the independent assessment and announced that the “real costs” of providing patrols was more than double what the independent experts had determined. The extra money collected from the townships does not go towards funding patrols, but will be spent on jail infrastructure. The budget for patrols was not in the red – it was fully funded by previous millage rates and fees charged to the townships. When the county threatened to layoff patrols to the townships that did not sign the outrageous new contract it was revealed that the costs to the county for the Sheriff’s department would be greater without the large sums of money contributed to the operating budget by the contracting townships.

    Be honest Jeff – if the townships formed their own police departments and stopped contracting for patrols, the costs to the rest of the county would increase. The county is required to have a Sheriff department whether or not any township wants dedicated patrols. I think the county board did “ Look at many different formulas and methodology for estimating those costs” and then choose the method that would provide the most subsidy for the giant jail plans. In reality, the townships taxpayers reduce the tax liability for the rest of the county.

       —Karen Luck    Jul. 12 '07 - 04:15PM    #
  15. If the townships all hired their own police departments, we need like three sheriffs to manage the courts and jail. We also could ditch the armored personnel vehicle and a few other unnecessary items in the Sheriff’s fleet.

    The cost would go down.

       —Cooler Heads    Jul. 12 '07 - 10:21PM    #
  16. Sorry, but the county is obligated to have sufficient numbers of trained individuals to respond immediately to any emergency or disaster in the county. County residents would still have to pay all their salaries even if they sat on their butts on Hogback just waiting for the next crisis. More likely, they would spend their days by writing traffic tickets. We are obligated by State law to have a trained and ready Sheriff department.

       —Karen Luck    Jul. 12 '07 - 11:48PM    #
  17. I believe that the Constitution mandates the election of a Sheriff. State law gives the sheriff authority over county jails and requires road patrols on county roads. The rest is a matter of interpretation.

       —John Q.    Jul. 13 '07 - 12:39AM    #
  18. Right. I have a question: are there any county roads within the city of Ann Arbor? Or the city of Ypsilanti?

    If so, do the sheriff’s patrol those roads?

       —Cooler Heads    Jul. 13 '07 - 01:24AM    #
  19. Cooler Heads – I’m fairly certain “no”. Everything in Ann Arbor and Ypsi (and Chelsea and Saline and Milan, I believe), is a “local road” except for the interstates and state trunklines.

       —Murph.    Jul. 13 '07 - 06:18AM    #
  20. Ahh, but Murph, State law doesn’t prohibit county Sheriffs from patrolling City streets… I’ve seen them doing speed patrol within City limits in numerous cities/villages, even though the municipality had its own force.

    One can go opposite of cooler heads though, and say that getting rid of almost every separate police force in Washtenaw County and combining them with the Sheriff’s office would be cheaper than a bunch of smaller forces… better training capabilities, etc.

       —paul    Jul. 13 '07 - 06:46AM    #
  21. Murph is correct about jurisdiction as you can see on these funky maps that look like circa 1960 but are actually pretty current:

    As far as consolidating services, there’s some language in the state law that seems to complicate this process by prohibiting local police forces from being reduced if the sheriff takes over county road patrols, etc. But I think most communities that have shifted to county road patrols did so by contract, not by resolution, so this prohibition probably isn’t an issue.

    [long url replaced by link--ed.]

       —John Q.    Jul. 13 '07 - 08:21AM    #
  22. If you are interested in a more detailed description of the pertinent facts, here’s the court document concerning the lawsuit and the 40 year history of county sheriff patrols in the township. The county sheriff is the primary responder for Homeland Security “Code Red Alert” and is mandated by the Federal government to provide a ready force for emergency response.

       —Karen Luck    Jul. 13 '07 - 04:27PM    #
  23. If Karen is correct, then I am happy to shoulder my share of the Homeland Security responsibility.

    But I do not want to pay anything for road patrols in rural Washtenaw County. Or I want those citizens to help subsidize my city police force. After all, those folks probably drive through the city often.

       —Cooler Heads    Jul. 13 '07 - 06:43PM    #
  24. In response to post #9:

    Unions are not getting their members 30% raises. Please keep ignorant union bashing comments to yourself.

    They are both incorrect and uninformed.

    Remember where the 40 hour work week came from? Unions!

    Fair wages? Unions!

    Lunch Breaks, sick time, benefits?


    My how quickly we forget!!!!

    And Yes, a lot of this cost is being used to shove down our throats a new county jail that was voted down last year.

    Apparently politicians know better than those they supposedly serve.

       —James C. Crawford    Jul. 16 '07 - 08:28AM    #
  25. An end to all non skilled labor in the US? Unions!

    Way to go. Negotiate yourselves right out of a job. Or should i say negotiate yourself a fine life at the expense of all future generations.

       —imjustsayin    Jul. 16 '07 - 08:43PM    #
  26. Ahh, dreaming of how things were before the unions took over. Sure, there was slave wages and working conditions, but at least one could easily afford to pay them.

    Definitely not the slave, but the slave-owner’s dream.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 17 '07 - 03:22PM    #
  27. imjustsayin –

    hear, hear! We shouldn’t deprive future generations of their chance at a serf’s stable employment just to selfishly claw our way up to humane working conditions!

    Eight hours for what we will…

       —TPM    Jul. 17 '07 - 06:48PM    #
  28. I am interested in reports of “inappropriate” activities performed by members of the Washtenaw County Sheriffs Dept. If I’m not mistaken, there have been occasions of drunk driving, intimidation, embezzlement and “cover up” of other illegal/incorrect activities carried out by deputies and their supervisory staff in recent months. Can anyone provide documentary evidence of such wrongdoing?

       —Mike Starwas    Sep. 5 '07 - 03:05AM    #
  29. Just as a note, guys, the jail expansion was also mandated by the state. The voters turned down the fairly sensible and responsible way of paying for it, without coming up with an alternative.

    See Kestenbaum’s comments from around that time.

       —js    Sep. 5 '07 - 09:49PM    #
  30. Nothing sensible about a giant jail that the majority of residents can’t afford. The county board’s alternative, making Ypsi township pay for it all, is not a viable alternative. The court dates are scheduled, the appeals process likely will get a final resolution.

       —Karen Luck    Sep. 6 '07 - 04:01PM    #
  31. I do give Sheriff Minzey and the department credit for investigating the insurance fraud case that led to the successful prosecution against Deputy Christopher Campbell and Deputy Jennifer Reynolds. The department just as easily performed a whitewash investigation that would have refused to recommend warrants to the prosecutor’s office and avoided such as that which eventually occurred with the two deputies making news and sullying the generally good name of the department. This was especially so since this is an election year for Minzey and he is expected to face opposition. Campbell, who resigned from the force as part of a plea deal, also was a defendant in a wrongful death suit that recently settled; getting him off the force was a good thing. Overall, I believe Minzey has done a decent job under difficult circumstances, although I believe the presence of his face on gas pumps was a subtle act of self-promotion rather than an attempt to place fear into the hearts of miscreants who would seriously consider driving off without paying for their gasoline.

       —Kaptain Krunch    Mar. 15 '08 - 05:03AM    #
  32. U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy has just announced a grand jury indicted three Washtenaw Sheriff’s deputies on federal civil rights charges relating to an incident involving excessive use of force. This is great to see! Deputies who choose to engage in such activity must be brought to justice in this county and examples made of them. More charges like this and we see the “police riot” like we had at the Raymond Tanter speech that led to the frivolous charges against Dr. Wilkerson. I am glad the feds got involved since it appears that Brian Mackie likely would not have brought charges in such a case. I salute the United States Attorney’s Office in Detroit in taking the time to ensure that these officers face justice.

       —Colorado Sun    Mar. 18 '08 - 04:12AM    #
  33. OOps

       —LauraB    Mar. 22 '08 - 09:33AM    #
  34. The Ann Arbor News reported yesterday on the recent arraignment of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s officers.

       —Michael Schils    Mar. 22 '08 - 11:21PM    #
  35. The federal grand jury indictment is historic in that it represents the first time since the 1967 Algiers Motel incident that the United States Attorney in Detroit has obtained civil rights charges against law enforcement personnel in a homicide case. Recall the State Police had submitted their investigative reports to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office for review long ago, per newspaper reports. Sheriff Minzey was interviewed several days ago on WXYZ-TV regarding the indictment.

       —Colorado Sun    Mar. 24 '08 - 08:43AM    #
  36. Dozens of persons showed up at a rally last Tuesday evening sponsored by the Defend Catherine Wilkerson Committee. The primary subject of the meeting was to marshal public support for her reinstatement to her position at the Packard Community Clinic. Catherine spoke of her witnessing KKK marches in the Deep South where she lived during the 1960s and her commitment to civil rights. She stated that the 2006 asphyxiation death of Clifton Lee, Jr. in Ypsilanti at the hands of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and the recent civil rights indictment of those deputies involved in the incident underscored the dangers that arrestees face due to improper conduct employed by law enforcement personnel. Her presentation was concluded with a thunderous ovation. Other speakers also covered the issue of police brutality and mentioned the fact Catherine’s case was recently cited in a medical journal article. Further, the issue of the district court candidacy of Catherine’s prosecutor, Margaret Connors, was addressed and it was noted that efforts are being mounted by Dr. Wilkerson’s supporters to oppose by vigorous means Connors’ run for the judicial vacancy. Lastly, the committee urged all to direct correspondence to the clinic’s board and its management to recommend Catherine’s reinstatement. A press release would follow, her committee reported.

       —another voice    Mar. 29 '08 - 11:02PM    #
  37. Last month Ed Brayton, the President of Michigan Citizens for Science, authored an article appearing in Michigan Messenger entitled “For Catherine Wilkerson, A Long Ordeal Continues”;the full text of the article can be downloaded at The article covers the events leading up to the filing of criminal charges against her and focuses upon the latest events following her jury acquittal and seems to imply that Catherine’s former employer, the Packard Community Clinic may make changes to their personnel contracts in the future regarding outside Free Speech activities as recommended by the ACLU, however will not address those matters until the end of the year and Packard’s director refused to comment on the future status of Dr. Wilkerson at the clinic. In a nutshell, Dr. Wilkerson’s status appears in limbo with respect to the clinic. Doctor Wilkerson’s prosecutor, Margaret Connors, had her candidacy for Ann Arbor District Court Judge announced in the Ann Arbor News the day after the same newspaper reported on Wilkerson’s termination from the clinic. Catherine’s supporters are encouraging all who opposed this highly unpopular criminal prosecution to go to the polls on this August 5th and to vote against Margaret Connors in the judicial primary election.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 1 '08 - 05:51AM    #