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 Fraser Department of Public Safety interim Director Mike Pettyes sits in his office earlier this year.

Fraser Department of Public Safety interim Director Mike Pettyes sits in his office earlier this year.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec

Fraser DPS director finds stability in current staffing structure

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 15, 2019


FRASER — Mike Pettyes said that all along he wanted to preserve those who routinely patrol the streets of Fraser.

Pettyes has acted as the Fraser Department of Public Safety interim director since George Rouhib left the position. He recently spoke of how the department has coped with budget cuts in recent years.

In late 2017, numerous officer positions were eliminated for financial reasons. Fraser DPS then regularly operated with 37 sworn officers — which even two years ago was about a 26% reduction in staffing levels since 2005.

Now, the DPS is budgeted for 29 public safety personnel from top to bottom. These personnel act as police officers, firefighters and EMS. Pettyes said that once Rouhib left, another employee was sent out into the community so that road patrol remained a vital daily part of the department.

After those eight officers were either terminated, retired due to eligibility, or went somewhere else, Pettyes said, hindsight would have reduced the time it took — about 1 1/2 years — to get back to decent staffing levels. Delays were attributed to the amount of training and schooling required of public safety personnel.

“We’re at two opposite ends of the spectrum: We have a lot of people with 20-plus years on, and a lot of people with less than two years on. … Even when they laid off those eight (personnel), if they would have waited and done it through attrition, we wouldn’t had to lay those people off,” he said. “If we said, ‘Give us six months, because people are going to leave,’ … it was a what-if.”

Fraser Public Schools pays $70,000 for a school resource officer, he said. One similar position was eliminated.

Pettyes said the number “has always been five,” in that any fewer than five personnel on a shift was not doable. For example, four individuals would not be able to simultaneously respond to a police call and an EMS call. They have to be able to handle two calls.

Another cut during budget shortfalls included the elimination of the drug unit, which Pettyes said “brought in more than any drug unit in Macomb County.” However, with the legalization of marijuana and changes in drug forfeiture laws, the unit incentives decreased and could not be realistically sustained anyhow.

“There was a lot better chance of finding marijuana and money than cocaine,” Pettyes said. “Cocaine was one or the other. You’d find a bunch of cocaine or heroin, but you’d find no money along with it. Or you’d find money but none of the drugs. It kind of went hand in hand. … In a city with our financial issues, we just can’t afford (a drug unit) right now.”

It’s a different time in the city’s history, he admits. Policing is “what we were known for,” and over the years, it has added to Fraser’s identity throughout southeast Michigan.

“I think that’s because we keep this a safe place,” he said. “We do a lot of proactive policing to assure a certain element of people don’t want to come to Fraser. They’ll go to other places because we have a quick reaction time.”

He praised the current seven members of the Fraser City Council, who have passed budgets the past two fiscal years without pushback. It has provided a sense of stability, both for the city and the department.

Pettyes said the council knows that he and those underneath him do a lot with a little, but it’s the new normal.

“I understand it,” Pettyes said. “Nobody wants to pay more in taxes, ever. But if they said, ‘Hey, we want to have a drug unit, we want to have more cops on the street,’ that would be great. But the number that we have right now is a manageable number.”