BRANCH COUNTY — Sheriff John Pollacks told city councils in January that he didn’t expect the Highway Patrol’s six new deputies to be on patrol until this summer.
After a lobbying effort with resolutions passed by each of the 16 townships, Branch County commissioners found funds in the 2024 budget to add six deputies to the current staff of eight and two sergeants.
A rise in rural crime over the past three years has concerned local councils.
The six additions are expected to restore 24-hour patrol coverage to Branch County.
After the Great Recession of 2008-2009, county revenues plummeted and budget cuts in 2013 forced the sheriff to lay off 11 deputies and cut services.
Municipal officers and the Michigan State Police have provided nighttime law enforcement services to the county since 2013.
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Pollack hired a potential officer who, along with two county corrections officers, is part of the 16-week police academy.
“When they go out, there’s field training with another officer. We’ll probably get them on the road at the end of April,” he said.
Two other corrections officers are in the pre-testing phase to qualify for the police academy.
“If they don’t, we’ll go looking for the last three (people) that we need and that the county commissioners will approve,” Pollack promised.
The county pays those at the academy.
“Hopefully we will have everyone on night patrols by summer,” Pollack said.
Once all three academy members complete their field training, Pollack said he hopes to extend the deputies’ coverage hours. “We are already out at 4 a.m. and working until 6 p.m. with split shifts,” the sheriff explained.
When the first three graduate, “we’ll divide the work again and work until 10 or 11 p.m.,” Pollack said. “We will continue to move forward little by little until…