Police chief says city needs another full-time officer

Funding keeping department staffed at minimal numbers

DAVISON — Police Chief Don Harris said the one thing his department needs is another fulltime police officer to help alleviate stress and staffing issues amongst the ranks.

Harris told the city council Feb. 24, during its annual Goals and Objectives meeting, that one additional officer would make a difference in his department which currently only has one officer on the road at any given time.

“If I was to have anything, I am in desperate need of another officer,” Harris told the council. “I can’t stress to you enough how important that is for our little police department.”

Over the past year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the department met a lot of “significant challenges” with some officers becoming COVID-positive and being off work.

He said one of the department’s part-time officers stepped up and did a phenomenal job helping out when he was needed.

Despite the additional help, he said there were still a lot of problems with the schedule and it has been difficult for officer to keep up their training, especially with many trainings cancelled during the pandemic.

“If we’re able to find funding I sure hope we can, because I desperately need this officer,” he said. “A lot of people in this community don’t realize there is just one officer working at a time. We, at times, are extremely busy, we have a lot going on especially when we’re crossing kids and things like that. I’m hoping to be able to look at a possible way to explore and get another officer on board.”

He said his officers are in desperate need of training, which is required by the state and so they can do a better job for the community.

“We are operating at bare bones,” said Harris. “Every shift, every hour, they are going out there and doing their best and at any time, anything can happen.”

If an officer were hurt in the line of duty, the department would be down even more. He said COVID-19 is also something that is not going away and will remain something the department – like everyone else – will have to continue to deal with.

An additional officer would also help the current staff schedule vacations and enjoy time-off, thus alleviating some of the stress they are under, he said, adding at times he has spent time working in a police car when they’ve needed an officer on the road.

“I don’t have a problem doing that, its part of my job, it’s something I love,” said Harris. “I’m hoping with (the council) taking a look at this, there’s something we might be able to do.”

The department currently has five full-time officers and four part-time officers, plus Harris and an office manager.

Two of the part-time officers are full-time Richfield Township officers who work for the city on their downtime from the township, he said. One part-time officer is also the full-time director of Genesee County Animal Control.

Harris praised all his officers, saying each has performed their duties well and should be commended.

The shortage, he said, came after a full-time officer left several years ago and was never replaced.

Councilman Ron Emery asked Harris what his ideal number would be for full-staffing, to which Harris replied “one is desperately needed, two would be something great, maybe something for the future.”

“So, you’d only need seven fulltime officers?” Emery asked.

“That would be a great start,” Harris replied.

Councilwoman Jamie Stebbins asked how the city can best recruit officers from within the Davison community.

Harris said hiring of an officer is complicated because they require certain training, he said.

He cited the recent hiring of an officer from the City of Burton, who replaced one who left at the end of 2020, who came to Davison with a significant amount of training.

“A lot of police departments are not in a position any longer to be able to afford to send someone to the academy like they used to do in the old days,” said Harris. “You would be able to find that certain person and say they’d make a great addition to this police department and then be able to send that person to the academy, pay that person while they in the academy and cover all the costs of that academy.”

Police departments across the state and country are all suffering from this problem to be able to find qualified applicants who want to do this job.

“That number is a whole lot less than it used to be,” said Harris.

Stebbins asked about the practice of having one officer on the road at a time and asked further about what Harris would like to see as a standard.

Harris said when times were good, pre-2008, he said the city had three officers, and sometimes the supervising officer, on the road.

During that time, he said the department was “everywhere” and was able to address even small issues that came up.

Now, with one officer on the road, the department relies a lot on mutual aid from Davison and Richfield townships for help when needed.

Councilman Chris Hinkley said the police department is continually asked to do more with less and he said he thinks the reason the city has had trouble passing a public safety millage is because the public doesn’t hear the stories of how much police and fire are struggling.

“They don’t know how strapped we are,” he said. “I commend (Harris) and your staff for getting a lot of service for what little our community is putting into it.”

Harris said he would be looking into grant money to help with some of the department’s training needs, while Abraham suggested another attempt at a public safety millage with a better informed community might be an option.

Voters rejected a request by the city for a tax increase from 1.485 percent to 1.685 percent during a special election in 2019.