Tension rises between Board of Trustees, police

Board shoots down suggestion of cutting narcotics, traffic bureaus

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 18, 2013

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Board of Trustees has been putting pressure on the Police Department to find savings since a consultant projected that it would be insolvent in 2017 if it did nothing to cut expenditures, due to it incurring a $1.7 million deficit per year, and mandated that it cannot hire new members.

At a work session Nov. 13, Chief Roland Woelkers presented a restructuring of the department that eliminated the narcotics bureau and traffic bureau because the sergeants in charge of both are retiring in early 2014 — one in January and one in March. Woelkers also is retiring as chief in January and will be replaced by a lieutenant or captain.

“Our core responsibility to the community is 911 response and good services,” Woelkers said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to reduce some positions and move some people around. That’s not the ideal thing — that’s not what we’d like to do — but considering our financial constraints and budget deficit, that’s what we had to come up with.”

In the new organizational chart he and his staff came up with, the three officers in the narcotics bureau would move to the detective bureau under the bureau’s lieutenant and would become a patrol investigator, policing officer and narcotics liaison officer who could work with the Drug Enforcement Administration or County of Macomb Enforcement Team.

“A benefit (of working with larger drug task forces) is that (the officer’s) salary and equipment costs would be picked up by the DEA or COMET, and that would be an additional savings. But we would not have our own narcotics team working in Shelby Township,” Woelkers said.

The three officers under the retiring sergeant in the traffic bureau would move to the patrol unit and would still perform some traffic work, but also have patrol responsibilities. Woelkers added that the traffic sergeant has a lot of responsibility that would be doled out among officers and shift sergeants and lieutenants.

“You have to have a supervisor (for the narcotics and traffic bureaus),” Woelkers said. “We eliminated a detective sergeant (position) last year and a captain (position) two years ago — we’re getting to the point where we don’t have enough supervisors.”

Woelkers added that four more potential lieutenants and sergeants will be eligible for retirement in January who have not yet given notice, which could amplify problems by June.

“(Eliminating the narcotics and traffic bureaus) is uncomfortable and something we don’t want to do,” he said, and he added that the only other option would be to look at hiring a couple new officers to keep the bureaus going. “The narcotics squad is a huge asset.”

The board collectively agreed that the proposal was a nonstarter. Supervisor Rick Stathakis bid Woelkers to find savings in the Police Department that do not hamper the narcotics, patrol or D.A.R.E. programs, although he said he does not want to hire new members because the department is facing a yearly deficit of nearly $2 million.

“This is something I, as an elected official, a resident and, most importantly, as a parent, cannot accept on any level,” Stathakis said. “Families move to Shelby Township for an environment in which children can grow and prosper. … Nothing undermines the futures of our children more than drug abuse.”

Woelkers agreed that he would confer with his staff and bring back another plan, but he said that the board probably would not like it, either.

“We only have so many people with so many responsibilities, so if we keep the narcotics squad, and if we’re mandated by the board to reduce our staff, we have to cut somewhere else … and that’s not going to be comfortable, either,” Woelkers said. “It’s a decision the board has to make between revenue and cutting services, and hiring new people.”