COVID-19 changes ease warrant burden on small-town PDs

Allegan County

WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic have caused all of us adjust our lives. While it has been frustrating and uncomfortable at times, some changes are positive.

“This has really been a silver lining to this cloud,” Wayne Police Department Chief Mark Garnsey said. “It’s kind of helped things out.”

He’s talking about the change to police warrants.

When officers need a warrant to make an arrest, it has to be approved by a judge. Before the pandemic, that meant a Wayland officer had to drive 20 minutes to the county courthouse in Allegan.

“There could be three officers in line with three warrants ahead of him, and depending on the staff at the prosecutor’s office — it’s not done instantaneously — there could be a couple-hour delay,” Garnsey explained the process.

In a small department where only one officer may be on duty at time, having the officer tied up far away for hours can be a big problem — all for an average of one warrant per day.

But since the start of the outbreak, all the warrant paperwork is sent through email or fax. The courthouse calls when it’s ready and, in most cases, the warrants can be sworn out over the phone; meaning the officers never have to leave the city.

“Hopefully it’s something we can continue because it’s not our money, it’s our taxpayers dollars and we’re trying to stretch those,” Garnsey said.

Other police departments have even longer drives to the courthouse. When local officers are unavailable, state police or neighboring departments have to step in, so the change has a positive ripple effect.

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