Benton Township declines help from Michigan State Police

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP – While Benton Harbor has begun its partnership with Michigan State Police, the same cannot be said for Benton Township.

Police Chief Vince Fetke said the township was offered assistance from state police by adding troopers to its detective bureau. However, the township declined the offer to avoid problems with the police union.

“Normally, we don’t discuss union issues,” Fetke said. “We put (the offer) on hold, but we still have a great working relationship with the state police. We look forward to working with them as they work with Harbor PD.”

The state police had offered to supply the township with two detective troopers, while splitting time between Benton Harbor with its detective sergeant.

Communities with high rates of violent crime were offered assistance through the state’s Secure Cities Partnership initiative.

In 2013, Benton Township, with a population of 14,749, reported 170 violent crimes, for a rate of 11.5 per 1,000 residents. That ranked the township at 11th in Michigan.

Benton Township has two in-house detectives and is assisted by the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force on an as-needed basis, Fetke said.

“We have a position that has not been filled at this point, but again, it’s a labor issue and eventually we’ll work through that,” Fetke said. “The detective position has been vacant for two and a half years. Our detective bureau has fluctuated between two and three positions for several years.”

Sgt. William Melcher, who serves as the Benton Township Command Officers union president, said he could not comment on it, stating it was an issue that is being worked on.

Superintendent Elden Piontek said the question came up about utilizing the additional help a few months ago, but the township will likely not pursue it because it would create labor issues with the union.

“We decided to pass on it at this time,” Piontek said. “We try to look at it from both sides and since we have that vacant position we thought it might cause a problem.”

Piontek said the third detective position has not been filled over the years for financial reasons.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 16, 2015)

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