Branch Co. Sheriff: Funding cuts would stop weekend patrols

Southwest Michigan

COLDWATER, Mich. (WOOD) — The Branch County Sheriff says he will have to eliminate weekend patrols if the money taken out of the state budget this week is not restored.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used a line-item veto that removed funding from the budget for sheriff’s offices across the state.

Sheriff John Pollack says state funding cuts would eliminate one of his eight patrol deputies, causing a staffing shortage that would require removing weekend patrols.

“I have to have enough people to work patrol Monday through Friday, plus the courts, plus the inmates, which means I won’t have enough then to work Saturday and Sunday,” Pollack said.

On Friday, Whitmer told News 8 at an event in Oshtemo Township that she is optimistic public safety funding will be restored.

“The legislature included a lot of language that would have required local sheriffs to contact ICE (federal immigration officials) and that was problematic on a number of levels. Lawful is very questionable, but also, I think philosophical. I think that’s another reason why some of those lines were in jeopardy coming out of the legislature and so any sheriffs that are engaged. I’m hoping are encouraging the legislature to get back to the table,” Whitmer said.

Pollack says money used to pay counties for housing state prisoners was also cut from the budget.

“If we’re not getting paid to house them, then we’re not going to be housing them,” Pollack said.

As a result of existing funding shortages, Branch County is already only able to cover road patrols from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The remainder of the time, the Michigan State Police must respond in communities without a local police department.

“The state police here cover three counties, Branch, St. Joseph, and Calhoun,” Pollack said. “If Calhoun is going through the same problem I am and St. Joseph is going through the same problem, it’s going to be even more stress on the state police.”

If funding is not restored, Pollack says people in his county and across the state will be at risk.

“It means longer wait times. It means sometimes we have to prioritize complaints where they don’t even get answered, so there may not be a car that would show up,” Pollack said.

 He says he will keep weekend patrols running as long as possible.

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