By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Byron Village Council voted unanimously Monday, Jan. 11, to temporarily suspend the village’s police department, effective Thursday, Jan. 14. The council discussed contracting with the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) to officially fill the void, but that decision will be made at a later date.
The department had a rough 2015, with Chief Tim Sampey retiring in August after eight years being the least of the problems. An officer was charged with an alcohol-related offense; a Byron citizen requested police department reports through a Freedom of Information Act and challenged the council to present the information during several meetings; an officer charged council members with harassment; an officer accused the village of withholding his pay; and the council was forced to pass a resolution following numerous cases of questionable hand-written time cards.
Since the retirement of Sampey and the passing of a resolution that called for the new chief to pick his own officers, which both happened in August 2015, the village’s police representation has been spotty. Residents and council members have noticed. The lack of police presence over the last couple months has led the council to realize that the village would survive without a police force, which has turned into a bad investment.
Instead, the village will lean on the SCSD and the Michigan State Police in emergencies. As for a more permanent solution, the council hopes SCSD Lieutenant Dave Kirk will be available to speak before the council at its Feb. 8 meeting to discuss coverage options. Village President Kit Brunell reported during the Jan. 11 meeting that she met with Lt. Kirk Friday, Jan. 8, to discuss prices and services packages, with Brunell saying that Lt. Kirk quoted her a price of $20 per hour for use of his deputies. Brunell also suggested the council explore partnering with Burns or Argentine townships in a cost-sharing situation.