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Branch Co. deputies to be pulled off night patrol, MSP to help cover
COLDWATER, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In just a few weeks, Branch County deputies are ending their night patrols--the latest victim of budget cuts taking a serious bite out of the Sheriff's Department.
It's a story we've been following since last November.
At the beginning of the year, city commissioners voted to reduce the department's budget by $1.2 million, laying off 11 deputies.
The Sheriff says his staff is bare-bones, and he's already doubled his allotted overtime budget this year to keep the department staffed.
Now, Michigan State Police are stepping forward to provide extra coverage.
Right now, there are only 8 deputies in Branch County, and the Sheriff says they're just stretched too thin. They often have only one man on the roads.
He says that putting his team of eight all on days should help them get more done, but he's making sure the roads are still covered 24-7.
We are a a level now where we couldn't have any less man power than we do now, said Sheriff John Pollack.
For the past 10 months, Sheriff Pollack has been forced to do more with less, after losing nearly a dozen deputies at the start of the year.
It's been hard for us morale-wise, he said. Men feel like they're not appreciated because of these cuts.
Now, four deputies are coming off overnights to give the county more manpower in court and to serve warrants during the day.
"We are realigning our personnel and resources so we can assign some people in branch county to cover that midnight shift, said Lieutenant David Wood, the Assistant Post Commander with the Michigan State Police Coldwater post.
Michigan State Police are stepping in to fill the gap, putting two troopers at the Coldwater post on overnights, which shouldn't affect coverage for them.
It's just a matter of assigning a person to a different area, Lt. Wood said.
The Sheriff is grateful for the help, but says it could be pulled at anytime, as MSP's coverage is determined by the state.
The thing that bothers me is we are the local agency for Branch County and we provide services for 42,000 people, no one can pull me out of there and send me somewhere else, Sheriff Pollack said.
But Pollack says this is the way it has to be for now.
He's working with county commissioners on a long-term solution that could bring some of his deputies back.
Branch County's budget for 2014 is in the process of being finalized by commissioners now.
We're told next year could be worse than this year for the county in terms of spending, but Sheriff Pollack told Newschannel 3 that they've been promised there would be no more cuts to their department.