Sand Lake shuts down police department

Kent County

SAND LAKE, Mich. (WOOD) — If you need police in Sand Lake, you will not see the familiar dark blue Sand Lake Police Department cruiser pull up.

The department’s office at the village hall is dark and the cruiser is parked in an empty bay at the fire station.

The village council voted March 18 to suspend the department. Officials are looking at other options for police service in the village of 500 residents.

In downtown Sand Lake, reaction over the decision is mixed. Mystic Emporium owner Tyler Umphrey has one major concern.   

“Basically response time,” he said.

But others agree the money budgeted for the part-time force could be better used elsewhere.

“I didn’t think it warranted it either, ’cause we’re so tiny. It’s not like we have criminals running around or anything,” Denise Schneider said as she cut hair at Corner Hair Design.   

The department’s chief was let go in December after an injury unrelated to policing sidelined him. The three part-time officers remained on the job. At the time, the Village President Danielle Hardenburg said she and other officials would look for a new chief.

But last week, they shut down the force, which costs the village about $60,000 per year.

On Monday, Hardenburg told 24 Hour News 8 the village is looking for the most cost-effective way to deliver law enforcement service. Just what that model will be remains to be seen.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is in talks with the village about working out coverage plan. For now, deputies will respond to calls for service in Sand Lake as they always have. But unlike other communities that pay extra for dedicated patrols, Sand Lake will get only the basics unless another plan can be worked out.

“Their calls for service will be prioritized within the long list of calls for service within the general coverage townships,” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joel Roon explained.

That’s what has Mystic Emporium owner Tyler Umphrey worried. Forget any stereotypes you may have: The local head shop owner likes having police just around the corner at Village Hall.  

“As a businessman, I want to be protected just in case anything crazy happens,” Umphrey said. “If anything happens around here, what’s it going to take? Like 10, 15 minutes for anybody to show up?”

But Denise Schneider at Corner Hair Design says her customers are happy with the move and so is she.

“This is a real quiet town,” Schneider said. “So I’ve never had any shenanigans or anything going on around here. It’s real quiet and peaceful.”

Village officials expect to hear a lot more from the community at their next meeting April 15.

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