News From The Upper Peninsula

By Emil Kezerle

Business Agent/Coordinator, Upper Michigan Office
1342 U.S. Highway 2, Crystal Falls, Michigan 49921 • 906-875-4990 – 800-361-1269

GOGEBIC COUNTY GRIEVANCE SIGNIFICANT

The WPPA, on behalf of the Gogebic County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, has initiated a grievance action regarding an issue that very well could impact other Sheriff’s Departments that have Tribal Police Departments working within their jurisdiction. First, allow me to be crystal clear on a very important point. In no way, shape, or form, should this grievance action be perceived as an attack or complaint against the Tribal Police. They have outstanding and highly trained officers who do an exceptional job. They lay themselves on the line no different than any other officer. This was very evident during the summer of 2005 when the Tribal officers were involved in a serious critical incident in Gogebic County.

A number of years ago, the Gogebic County Board, the Township in which the Tribal Police Department is located, and the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department, entered into an agreement whereby Tribal officers would be deputized by the Sheriff. The Gogebic County Deputy Sheriff’s Association informed all parties at that time that there would be no Union objection to the deputization unless and until such time that the Association was faced with layoffs. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Association has now been impacted by a layoff, while at the same time the Tribal officers, under the authority granted to them by the county sheriff, continue to provide general police services. Such services include criminal investigations, response to general complaints, and enforcement of the Michigan Vehicle Code, much of which occurs on Tribal land.

The Association does not necessarily contest the constitutional authority of Michigan sheriffs to deputize individuals for any number of reasons. The Association does, however, contest the fact that the County of Gogebic and the Gogebic County Sheriff refuse to place restrictions on the deputization of law enforcement officers who continue to do bargaining unit work while members of their own staff are on layoff status. At the very least, the Association believes that any and all Gogebic County Sheriff’s deputies should be recalled from layoff status as long as another police agency maintains the ability to perform the work of a deputy under the authority granted by the sheriff.

This matter is now in the hands of the attorneys representing the employer and the Union. A request for arbitration has been filed.

Allow me to end this summary the way it began. I believe that the work and dedication displayed by the Tribal officers is a credit to the law enforcement profession and a credit to law enforcement in Gogebic County. It is, however, the responsibility of the Union and the Gogebic County Deputy Sheriff’s Association to protect the work we feel is reserved for deputy sheriffs. To that end, this process will continue to move forward.

HANCOCK POLICE ASSOCIATION UNITES

I want to briefly touch upon a situation I was recently witness to in the City of Hancock, which serves as a testament to what can be accomplished when our associations work together.

For an extended period of time, the Hancock Police Association, which includes the chief and lieutenant, were faced with a member of their City Council who had, and has, what appears to be a very obvious “axe to grind” with the Police Department. This Council person placed no controls on his own behavior, which included false accusations of all sorts towards members of the Department. After hearing the testimony I recently heard at a special meeting of the City Council, it was (and is) obvious that this Council person has made it his passion to humiliate and discredit the Hancock police in the presence of anyone who would stand still long enough to listen. In an effort to maintain some level of peace, the Hancock police, amidst this council person’s repeated calls for police staff reductions, continued to respond to the council person’s regular neighborhood complaints in a professional fashion that I believe is truly a credit to the entire department.

On November 30, 2005, I had the privilege of being in attendance at a special meeting of the Hancock City Council. This particular meeting was no regular meeting; rather, it was called at the specific request of the Hancock Police Association. The Association was present to specifically request that the City Council support a resolution in support of the Police Department, and that the troubled council person be publicly restrained from making false and damaging public allegations against the Police Department.

The meeting room was filled to capacity. I sat and listened to the testimony of the police chief, the police lieutenant, and members of the Association. The professional way in which the Hancock Police Association handled this very emotionally charged meeting was, in my mind, beyond impressive. The community stood behind each officer as they explained the frustration they have experienced with this council person. At the conclusion of the police comments, a motion in support of the police was made, supported, and unanimously approved by the entire Council. The council member, whose behavior generated the meeting, apologized, and then informed the rest of the Council of his intent to resign from the Council effective in January of 2006.

As your Union, we are constantly in your ear about the importance of political action and the importance of coming together as one. I wish every member of every Association we represent could have been present at this meeting in Hancock as this truly serves as an example of how we all benefit from working together. I was very proud to be present at this meeting, and I am very proud to be the Business Agent for the Hancock Police Association.

I hope that you all had a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and I wish you the very best in the new year.

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