County approves investigator to complete deputy certifications

BRANCH COUNTY – Sheriff John Pollack informed the county commission that there are five deputies without certification during the board’s work session on Thursday.

Pollack told the committee that two previous hires and the three new graduates of the night patrol academy must still pass background checks from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.

The uncertified highway patrol deputies began their work in 2023. The sheriff said MCOLES allowed the two deputies hired in 2023 to continue working until all paperwork was approved.

Commissioners approved a request to hire a part-time investigator to conduct the investigations to comply with new, stricter officer hiring standards put in place last year. The former soldier receives the highest road patrol salary of $28.77 per hour for three months of work; the commissioners will then reassess the need.

The courts expunged three misdemeanors, 18 misdemeanors and 57 traffic tickets after prosecutor Zack Stempien discovered in February that former deputy Tim Hann, who was hired in August 2023, had not been certified by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.

Previous story Sheriff said he was not aware the deputy was not certified

Pollack again claimed that Hann was certified, but the required information was not available because the Jonesville Police Department provided no explanation for his departure from that department in 2022.

His office checked after the prosecutor raised the issue in late February.

Polack added that Hann was fired for other reasons before MCOLES could confirm his certification.

“This is yet another state agency that imposes, mandates and implements mandates without regard to local agencies. We didn’t even have any knowledge of it. We were operating in the blind,” he admitted.

The MCOLES memo on the new requirements was emailed to multiple law enforcement agencies on March 14.

After the Hann issue, MCOLES came to Branch County in April to audit the certified workforce.

Pollack told commissioners that the new certification examination involves more than 40 steps, most of which require in-person interviews.

Previous story Prosecutor details investigation into uncertified deputy

Pollack is already short on officers and says he needs the investigator to meet demands. He has only four officers in the two patrol platoons to do the required work in-house.

“We have two vacancies remaining of the six night patrol vacancies that will ultimately need to be explored,” Pollack said.

Pollack said he may lose another officer.

The sheriff said the current staff of his administrative assistant, the undersheriff, and available deputies have not been able to complete the required in-person background interviews since the initial notification in March.

Undersheriff Keith Eichler said there doesn’t appear to be a deadline. MCOLES “just wanted to do it as soon as we could get it done. They understand our position personnel-wise.”

Eichler said hiring a local retired soldier would be cheaper than hiring someone from an outside agency.

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The sheriff’s department has not spoken with other departments about how to handle the certification investigations.

The sheriff uses overtime for his staff. Eichler said, “Until our vacancies are filled. I have three cadets who are all doing field training for the next ten weeks.”

– Contact Don Reid: [email protected]