Snowy Day Stretches Thin Ingham Co. Sheriff's Dept. Even More

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

One stop tells the story about how budget cuts have made Deputy Scott Macomber's job much harder.

Macomber is the only patrol out Thursday night following a day of snowfall across the area. For his very first call of the night he arrives on the scene of a black Saturn sedan that's smashed it's front driver's side light into a tree.

But there are a few problems. The call he's taking has been waiting for more than 90 minutes. Because of that the car has already been moved by the tow truck driver, altering the scene of the crash. That earns the tow truck driver a lecture from Macomber. The bigger problem, however, is that the driver is nowhere to be found.

Although it's illegal for the driver to be gone, it's understandable. The driver was a woman who was 7 months pregnant and she'd been waiting a long time before she simply had to head home.

Understandable as it might be, it takes extra time out of a busy night for Macomber, who has to track her down to finish his report. The reality is that a story like this isn't uncommon for Ingham County deputies these days.

"People get sick of waiting," said Macomber. "It used to be only people evading police left the scene. Now it's normal people."

It didn't used to be this way. Before budget cuts hit over the last few years, Ingham Co. would have had 6 or more deputies out and about on a night like this one.

"We used to be a lot more proactive," said Lt. Vern Elliott. "Deputies could drive and help people who slid off before they could even call for help. Now we don't have that capability. We just don't have those cars anymore."

That means days when the roads are icy become that much trickier.

"Calls stack up on us," said Elliott. "We just go from one to the next. We go to any accident where someone's hurt first. That goes to the top of the queue."

But that queue can be fairly long when nearly 100 calls come in and only one deputy is patrolling at a time. Another issue that arises is if Macomber finds an intoxicated driver at the scene of one of these accidents, he gets pulled off the road for 2-3 hours in order to process the case. On a night like Thursday that equates to 2-3 hours without any patrols on the roads.

"It's hard to be productive when we're just waiting for calls to come in," said Macomber.


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