The Lansing City Council is looking into a Mutual Patrol Services agreement that would allow the Ingham County Sheriff to help the Lansing Police Department for up to six hours each week.
The agreement would bring in four sheriff's deputies for a couple hours up to three times a week to assists with traffic enforcement. Deputies would not take calls for service.
"It accomplishes three things," said LPD Chief Mike Yankowski. "It enhances the traffic safety awareness for our citizens, it produces reductions in traffic violations and fatalities and it provides a crime-fighting piece component to it."
Mayor Virg Bernero is also onboard.
"I think anytime you have neighboring jurisdictions or overlapping jurisdiction police forces getting to know each other and working together closely, I think that works to the good of the good folks and it works against the criminals," he said.
"We're an important part of the county," Bernero said. "I don't think we should be ashamed of the fact that we're the capital city, we're located in Ingham County, the sheriff has jurisdiction here. Everyone in Lansing gets to vote for or against the sheriff and we pay county taxes here."
The mayor first proposed the partnership in 2011, according to former Public Safety Committee Chair Carol Wood, but that was just after a budget that started laying off police officers. It was brought up again in 2012, but the city had not yet brought back the officers it laid off.
That meant an outside group coming in to do patrols, Wood said.
Currently, there are 190 officers on staff at LPD. Seven positions are still vacant. Wood says she'd like to see those filled first before the Sheriff steps in.
"I think the issue is making sure that this is not going to have an effect on hiring processes and filling positions that we have open," she said.
The Fraternal Order of Police is also opposed. Executive Director Thomas Krug testified that LPD member officers felt they could do the work themselves and noted that Ingham County was already stretched thin.
Krug says, even if the committee moves forward with the agreement, he doubts the Ingham County Board of Commissioners would approve, citing significant objection and uncertainty from members.
"I think it's absolutely foolish," said Commissioner Randy Schafer, adding that the number of officers has dropped from 37 to 14 in recent years. "Often we have many areas of this county that are left without anyone and that to me is unacceptable."
The county vice-chairperson pro-tem feels the same way.
"The Sheriff Department deputies have been cut to a bare minimum where there is sometimes no response available from the Sheriff Department," said Commissioner Randy Maiville. "We need to work together regionally but I don't see where the sheriff department has the resources to support this at the expense of the whole county in general."
The funding for the plan comes from a state grant. The money from tickets issued in district 54-A will likely stay in district 54-A, Chief Yankowski said, so the city could make a profit.
Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wrigglesworth could not be reached for comment for this story.