Better together: Isabella County law enforcement agencies collaborate to better serve the community

With the State Police Post, City Police, Central Michigan University Police Department, Tribal Police, and Sheriff’s Office all in one area, the makeup of local law enforcement in Isabella County is somewhat unique. However, they all collaborate on everything from training to criminal investigation to better serve the community.

Captain of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police Department Kelly Babcock says that there are no barriers when it comes to public safety.

“We work together, train together, and communicate well amongst each other,” says Babcock. “We all have the same goal in mind — keeping our communities safe and free from criminal activity.”

Members of various law enforcement and public safety agencies are comfortable with each other, as they all work closely together and collaborate on everything from training to criminal investigations.

INTER-AGENCY COLLABORATION

A big reason local law enforcement agencies work well together is because they train together. Autume Balcom, Public Information Officer for the Mt. Pleasant Police Department (MPPD), says various agencies train together frequently.

“We do a lot of training, but we also try to train with those groups that we’re working with,” says Balcom. “We all collaborate together and try to prepare so that we are ready for anything and are successful in doing our part in keeping everybody safe, protected, and up to date.”

One of the tools utilized in multiagency training is the Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives (MILO) Range Theater system. The 180 degree interactive training system was installed at CMUPD in 2017 and is utilized by a variety of local police agencies. It offers hundreds of scenarios ranging from de-escalation and cultural awareness, to an active shooter scenario.

CMUPD trains and collaborates with various local law enforcement agencies, and vice versa.

“A lot of what we do in our job involves decision making,” says CMUPD Lt. Cameron Wassman. “And sometimes we don’t have the luxury of a lot of time in order to make some of those decisions…systems like this certainly help us to supplement those types of training.”

One of the larger events where this collaborative training is beneficial is CMU’s homecoming, which draws thousands of excited fans and alumni to the community. Multiple agencies chip in to help during the game and weekend festivities.

With approximately 20,000 students in or around campus and a staff of several thousand, Larry Klaus, Chief of Police at the Central Michigan University Police Department (CMUPD) says CMU is like a small city. To handle all that is a staff of 25 sworn police officers who receive help from 13 civilians who assist with parking and dispatch, and about 32 student employees who help with building security functions and safe rides.

“We utilize students heavily to supplement what we need to get done,” says Klaus. “And when we have big events like our homecoming, we rely on our community partner law enforcement officers.”

Central Michigan University Police Department's Chief of Police Larry Klaus shows 4-year-old Tobi Marcinek how to work a squad car's radio during CMUPD's 50th anniversary celebration.

Vice versa, Klaus says whenever another agency is in need or has a big event, such as the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe if they have a concert, CMUPD will assist by sending several officers.

All the law enforcement agencies in Isabella County work well with each other and rely on each other for different forms support and resources, says Brian Lucha, Community Service Trooper at the Michigan State Police (MSP) Mt. Pleasant Post.

“It can be as simple as a motorist assist, criminal investigation, training, or even a potentially volatile situation,” says Lucha.

Wassman says, “We’ve always done our best to train with our local agencies. The fact is that if something big happens, everyone is going to be involved and come and help us just like we would help them.”

CMUPD has working relationships with various law enforcement agencies to train and collaborate - whether it's at events like homecoming or in situations such as the shooting on campus in 2018.

That’s exactly what happened when the shooting occurred on Central Michigan University’s campus in March 2018 - a multitude of partnering agencies rallied together to provide support.

Lucha says while CMUPD was the primary investigating agency, MSP assisted by providing troopers, detectives, K-9 teams, emergency services team, aviation unit, and the forensic lab.

Not all of the partnerships involved in community policing are law enforcement. Lucha says law enforcement agencies frequently work with other agencies, such as Community Mental Health (CMH) or the Isabella County Child Advocacy Center (ICCAC), depending on the situation.

“People usually come to the police first and it’s our job to help them branch out and use our partnerships to get the help they need,” says Balcom.

Owner of Robaire Bakery & Doughnut Shop, Dina Desormes, talks to members of the Central Michigan University Police Department (CMUPD) prior to Coffee with a Cop.

IN THE COMMUNITY

Many local law enforcement agencies are also working to strengthen their community policing efforts. Community policing is a policing strategy that aims to improve public safety by building ties between law enforcement and the community through interaction. Strategies vary depending on the community’s needs.

“We use community policing to garner working relationships for the better interest of the community in which many of us live and serve,” says Lucha. “When done right, community policing leads to safer and improved quality of life for all.”The collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies only provide more of an opportunity for community policing efforts.

“We are continuously invited by our surrounding agencies to participate in events that they may be involved with and/or sponsoring,” says Babcock. “This puts our department’s personnel in contact with many different facets of our communities, leading to relationships and bonds that only strengthen community policing efforts.”

Klaus says that while community policing has already been a part of policing on CMU’s campus for more than a decade, CMUPD has in recent months shifted its community policing model to a more team-based approach. Each CMUPD officer has been assigned to one of the four quads on campus so all officers will have similar community policing interactions around the university.

With this new strategy, they’re hoping to give students a different view of law enforcement.

Members of the Central Michigan University Police Department (CMUPD) and the Mt. Pleasant Police Department (MPPD) sat down with students and community members at Robaire's Bakery to answer questions about law enforcement

“Our goal is to serve as mentors and to help guide our students along their journey through college, and if they’re struggling to connect them to resources,” says Klaus. “Whether it’s academics, mental health, relationships, or student activities to try to connect them to our campus community so they stay here four years, become successful, and graduate.”

“Students are here as adults for the first time, so we have an opportunity to shape their perspective of the police,” says CMUPD Lt. Michael Sienkiewicz. “It’s really important how we treat and interact with students here and help frame that relationship and expectation of what the police can be.”

Many local law enforcement agencies participate in community events such as Coffee with a Cop, Shop with a Cop, or National Night Out. Here, law enforcement personnel are shown during the 2019 Shop with a Cop event.

In an effort to help bring law enforcement and the community close, many local law enforcement agencies participate in community events such as Coffee with a Cop, Shop with a Cop, or National Night Out.

“This environment wasn’t created overnight but will surely deteriorate if our communities doesn’t work with and support their law enforcement agencies, and vice versa,” says Babcock. “With trust, open communications, and positive relationships with each other we’ll continue working in that direction.”

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