As 2021 came to an end I have had the ability to reflect on the first year in office for Undersheriff Mike Williams and I as we have led the men and women of the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office. We had many goals we wished to accomplish, most which were completed, some we continue to work towards and others that still need attention.
Appreciation needs to be given to Captain Kevin Wood, Lieutenant Mark Danielson, our support staff,
including Kerri Merrill, Suzanne Vetter, and Teresa O’Neil and all the employees of our office. A
transition is never an easy one, specifically in the case of Undersheriff Williams and I coming from
outside agencies, but because of everyone at the MCSO, things were as smooth as they could be. The
former administration had prepared and had a solid foundation in place.
Immediate goals our administration had were to raise morale at the MCSO. As with any workplace,
there will be ups and downs when it comes to morale, no matter where you work. We wanted to make sure our staff, or family/team, as I like to refer to them, knew the work they did and people they are, were appreciated by us. With this came making sure we were all accountable for the work we did and the professional manner we went about carrying ourselves. The more pride our TEAM has in the work they do, the better we will serve our community. Part of improving morale was getting to back to be fully staffed, both in corrections and on the road. We have improved this, but like other law enforcement agencies throughout the country, this continues to be a goal we are working toward.
Another goal was to be more open and transparent about the calls for service we police daily and the
day-to-day activities our TEAM is involved in. We began doing so by interacting more on social media
and through reporting the daily shift activity report to our local news outlets. We also began to provide more detailed reports on the calls for service we took in each of the townships in the county each month. If we want support from the community we serve, they need to know who we are and what we do. I am a firm believer in the police are the community and the community are the police.
A third goal was to have a better working relationship with other law enforcement agencies in the area.
We have begun to do this with better communication with the agencies surrounding us. This
communication and the relationships with these agencies have resulted in we, Newaygo, Isabella,
Montcalm, Osceola Counties, with assistance from the BRDPS, CMET, MIOC and the FBI forming our own human trafficking task force built from a model introduced to us by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and their G.H.O.S.T(Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team). Our task force has run three operations, which resulted in the arrest and multiple charges, including accosting minors for immoral purposes against 9 men. The most rewarding aspect of the operations was the men we arrested that will not be able to victimize any further people. Also, rewarding was looking around the rooms we were working in and seeing the communication between everyone, with a common goal in mind, and not being able to tell who worked for each agency. Just a group working as one.
In February Undersheriff Williams and I began to meet with former MCSO Jail Administrator Rick
Kaledas. Rick is nationally recognized and does a large amount of consulting throughout the nation on jail administration. We began meeting weekly after we reached out to him inquiring on him consulting the two of us on the new to us administrative roles we had and to aid us as in broadening our perspective on what was needed to make our agency an exemplary one as we move into the future.
Today, law enforcement agencies cannot get by on the budget they have in place alone. We also need to rely on grants to help supplement what we are doing. Internally, through grants and our budget we were able to purchase or were granted a Trunarc. The use of illicit narcotics and opioids continues to skyrocket. Emerging lethal drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil threaten public safety. To save lives and protect law enforcement officers, banned substances need to be identified quickly, safely, and accurately. TruNarc Analyzer rapidly identifies drugs and can reduce the backlog of cases at crime labs while decreasing costs. This leads to quicker case resolution and helps drug offenders access treatment faster. It has also been accepted for evidentiary purposes in our courts, speeding up this process. While we were granted this earlier in the year, due to red tape, we are still waiting to take possession of this valuable tool for our deputies and other law enforcement in the field. With another grant through TC Energy, we were able to purchase new stop sticks for all our fleet vehicles. A Federal Government grant allowed us the opportunity to purchase new vests for our deputies, as most were close to expiring. A donation has further allowed us to fit the deputies with external carriers for the vests. This has been shown to be more comfortable for deputies, but more importantly takes a lot of the stress and strain off the deputies backs and hips, with the wait of having the tools they need all on their duty belt. A grant received by Lieutenant Danielson when a new contract with our jail phone service provider, IC Solutions, allowed us to begin to have video visitations for inmates with loved ones and their attorneys. With the money we were also able to secure several key entrance points in the building, including our evidence room. Another grant received through Great Lakes Energy, allowed us to get a doghouse and a GPS tracking/training collar for K9 Zeke and his handler, Deputy Chad Thompson.
A collaboration between our office, the Osceola County Sherif's Office, Meceola Central Dispatch and Community Mental Health for Central Michigan will be bringing critical crisis training to area first responders. In October, the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners authorized submission of a grant application to the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority Risk Avoidance Program to help fund mental health and crisis intervention training. The RAP was established in 1997 to assist in projects that are innovated with a high potential of solving specific risk management problems of government agencies, including specific education or training programs. Because of the concerns of law enforcement agencies’ ability to deal with mental health crises and engage with those experiencing a mental health crisis, they are asking the MMRMA to assist with the proper training required to avert negative outcomes. Our plan to develop four trainers for Mecosta and Osceola counties. Those four trainers, in turn, will train first responders within the two counties, including law enforcement, EMS, fire department, corrections officers and dispatch center workers. We will begin looking at incorporating the training shortly after the first of the year, in 2022.
Our history and tradition at the MCSO were something I wanted to acknowledge as we move forward. It made me happy to have retirees or former staff stop into the office, if for no reason than to just say “hi”. Because of this we had photos of staff taken for an office composite. It is always nice to have this framed and hanging in a prominent place in our office so the public knows who they have serving them.
It is also nice to have our staff have a professional photo of themselves for family. Other significant projects of note our office began to be involved in this year was Corrections Officer Genice Grein taking the initiative and signing us up for Adopt a Highway through MDOT. We were granted the stretch on Northland Dr, south of Big Rapids from 13 Mile Rd to Knollview Dr. On three occasions this year members of our office took part in the highway cleanup.
In July, working with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, our two agencies hosted a weeklong
Public Safety Youth Academy. The academy ran the week of July 15th , with 15 boys and girls, ages 12-14 years old taking part. The academy was a huge success, with other law enforcement, first responders and court staff all assisting in the lessons. The students learned about fire and EMS, the role of a K9 officer, the responsibilities of DNR law enforcement officers, firearms, defensive tactics, the role, and tactics used on traffic stops, evidence processing, the role of corrections officers, also receiving a jail tour, the role of the judicial system, presented by the prosecutor and District Court Judge and situational awareness when the need arises to potentially use fatal force. We began the week at Cranhill Ranch with rapport and team building exercises and ended it with a graduation ceremony. The kids and their families were very happy and appreciative of the information received during the week. The instructors found it to be a success and look forward to building on it in the years to come.
In August we began the process of initiating Victim Services Unit between our office and the Osceola
County Sheriff’s Office. The VSU is a team made up of civilian victim advocates to act as a bridge
between our office in critical incidents and the prosecutor's office and to aid in some responsibilities,
such as death notifications with deputies in the field. Through an application process and interviews, we have selected 13 advocates between here and Osceola County. Formal training hosted by the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association will take place the end of February, with the intent for the team to be available and in place by the first of April.
The MCSO and BRDPS continue to work together in the investigation of Timothy Kailing, who has been missing since September 4th, 2019. Law enforcement is continuing to ask for help from the public in locating Kailing and working to find closure and resolution for his family. The MCSO and BRDPS would like to remind everyone Kailing are deeply missed by his children and loved ones.
The men and women of the MCSO work tirelessly to make sure you and your loved ones are safe. In
2020, deputies took 4309 reportable complaints. Ending 2021, we ended up with 4849 complaints.
These numbers do not include the other calls for service and proactive activity our deputies perform.
As with any organization you have comings and goings and change. We were fortunate to hire several quality road deputies and corrections officers in 2021.
We had a longtime member of our family retire in November, when Detective Sergeant Drew Nielsen chose to step away from this profession. With his departure Detective Sergeant Mike Mohr took on the new role and responsibilities of being an investigator with our agency. With Detective Sergeant Mohr’s new role, Victor Vandertol was promoted to Sergeant. With a couple of retirements on the roadside expected in the coming year, there will be new opportunities for people to take on new leadership roles within the department. It is not only here where retirement will affect us, with the retirement of Chief Prosecutor Brian Thiede, who will be stepping away in the next week. We have long been fortunate to have his leadership and direction. When speaking to other law enforcement officers from outside our county they would regularly speak of their jealousy of who we had to prosecute our cases and the relationship he had with all of us. He was truly a Godsend for all of us who came up through the ranks and will be missed. With that, the Mecosta County Prosecutor’s Office will be in good hands with the appointment of Amy Ault, who we have worked with through the years also.
As well as this first year has gone, it was not without its losses. We lost a longtime friend and co-worker in Mark Solis in October. Mark gave so much to this community. Most importantly, he was a great friend, kind soul, and gentleman. Once his friend, you were always a friend. This past week we lost family member Shawn Brimmer who passed away while working due to medical causes. His death has been difficult for everyone here, and he will not be forgotten.
As we move into 2022, we will continue to move onward and upward. There are a few goals and
interests to be accomplished to continue to make the MCSO one that our community members can be proud of to have representing them. First and foremost, is the need to be fully staffed, for the well- being of our TEAM members and citizens. We would like to offer more training. A better trained
department is better able to serve its citizens. I would like to look at expanding the facility we have in
place for liability and better service reasons.
From a national viewpoint, COVID-19, recruitment and retention, officer support systems, evolving
police defensive tactics training, the Methamphetamine and Opioid epidemics, procedural justice and use of force will all continue to be hot topics in 2022.
The positives from 2021 were not a result of our administration, but due to the men and women of the MCSO that work tirelessly for your safety. Detroit Tigers Manager, Sparky Anderson said it best, “The players make the manager, it’s not the other way.”