Short deputies, Branch Co. pauses weekend patrols

Southwest Michigan

COLDWATER, Mich. (WOOD) — Budget cuts and staff shortages have forced the Branch County Sheriff’s Office to cut the number of patrol deputies over the last several years. The situation is so bad that the sheriff’s office will stop patrolling on the weekends for at least a month and a half.

“(Branch County is) having a little bit of a funding crunch, so they’re not able to get to the staffing levels that they’d like to be at,” Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Jim Coleman told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.

Branch County Sheriff John Pollack issued a statement on Facebook Saturday, saying his department was hit hard after a millage failed in 2012 and the county commission cut funding. In turn, the sheriff’s office cut the number of road deputies from 23 to eight. Of those, two have since retired and one is on long-term sick leave, leaving just five deputies to cover the county’s more than 500 square miles.

“You look back in time and it wasn’t that long ago where we had lots of troopers, lots of deputies and lots of local officers working in these areas,” Coleman said.

The weekend patrols stop Aug. 20. MSP troopers will fill the void until at least October. Pollack said two new deputies should be trained by then.

“We normally have some minimum staffing numbers that we typically put out on the road, but we’ve increased those so we have plenty of coverage out there,” Coleman said.

Pollack said in his statement MSP is doing its best, but pointed out the agency’s nearest post has two other counties to cover. Coleman wouldn’t say exactly how many troopers will patrol Branch County, but said MSP could cover the gaps without any problems.

“We have overtime dollars that are allotted to us and the district will supplement us for any needs that we have if we go above and beyond,” Coleman said. “So, we’ll just take some of our troopers — we have a three-county post area — we can move resources as needed.”

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