Contingency plans being made to police Benton Harbor

In and around Benton Harbor people are preparing for the worst.

“Well, if they eliminate the police department we’ll look at the state police also being over there doing some patrol along with us,” said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.

There’s a possibility that the Benton Harbor Police Department may have to disband because of financial problems. Earlier this month, Benton Harbor voters rejected two city millage renewal requests.

The Benton Harbor Police Department now has about 15 full time and 15 part time officers. That’s a lot of jobs to lose, and a lot of shoes to fill for the police agency charged with picking up the slack.

“As the sheriff, the statute says that if a jurisdiction can’t respond to a criminal complaint, the sheriff, falls back on the sheriff,” said Bailey.

Today, Bailey was busy requesting that the Michigan State Police help ‘cover his back.’

“There’s a possibility that they could take the day shift, we’ll take the midnight shift,” said Bailey. Benton Harbor is, you know, one of the busiest police departments in the county so the call volume is a lot higher than other areas, so that’s why we would need at least, at the minimum, three people working per shift.”

The S and J Flea Market opened about four years ago right down the block from the police station in Benton Harbor.

The store owners took for granted that a police presence would always be part of the bargain. “I’ve never seen that in my lifetime, you know, a city losing a police department,” said Sammy McCoy. “I just pray and hope that we do not lose our police department because I’m a small business downtown Benton Harbor and from time to time they do stop in and check on me and it makes me feel good.”

“Of all things, a police department, we can’t afford to have dis-assembled, and this is something that’s very serious,” agreed S and J co-owner Jairia McCoy.

Benton Harbor would add about five square miles and another 10-thousand people to the coverage area of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.

Bailey said that Benton Harbor’s Emergency Financial Manager had a meeting in Lansing today with officials from the Michigan Department of Treasury, in the hopes of securing a state loan that would buy time for the police department.

Bailey says that the Pontiac, Michigan Police Department recently dissolved for financial reasons.

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