By Mary Drier
AKRON — The consensus after an hour-long community meeting Thursday with the Akron Police Committee, is to move forward with hiring a new police chief.
Antoine LaPratt, who was the chief of police for the Akron-Fairgrove Police Department, resigned May 20. With his resignation, three communities lost police protection. The village and township of Fairgrove contracted with the village of Akron in order to have 40 hours of police coverage for the area.
Since LaPratt left, the village of Fairgrove decided they want to re-establish their own part-time police department again. They also asked LaPratt to help them with the paperwork to do so, and to consider being their chief of police.
Fairgrove Township Supervisor Keith Aeder and Clerk Karen Goodchild were at the meeting and expressed an interest in continuing to contract with Akron for police coverage when they hired someone.
The hours of coverage was an area of concern to the approximate 15 people who attended the meeting. Some residents thought it was better to have an officer on duty in the late night to early morning hours while others thought the morning was better when children were going to school to keep speeding down.
“Don’t just hire a police officer… hire a law enforcement officer, and one that doesn’t know everyone,” said audience member Steve Young.
It was also noted that hiring an officer from outside of the service was the viable option.
“Antoine had people coming to his house all hours with complaints,” said Clerk Shari Hadaway.
While on the issue of the former police chief, some residents brought up rumors they heard about alleged inappropriate handing of equipment.
The Tuscola County Advertiser investigated the matter.
“There was no wrong doing,” said David Sass, who is state coordinator for the Law Enforcement Support Office, where the equipment came from.
Among the items the village Akron received were six-by-six Army trucks, a generator, a trailer, guns and ammunition. Sass estimates Akron received about $180,000 with of equipment overall.
The only cost for a community to receive items from the program is the cost of transporting them to the village.
“The trucks were returned several months ago. He (LaPratt) thought they were something the village could use, but we decided they would be too expensive to operate… with gas and all,” said Akron Village President Juanita Hollister.
The trucks were then assigned to St. Clair County.
Also, the village of Akron had to give up a generator that was received from the program they wanted to have to back up the water system.
“We really needed the generator, but we can’t keep it,” said Hollister. “The way the program works is a village has to have an active police department; which we don’t right now. And, after one year, we could have kept it. It hasn’t been a year so it has to go back.”
The generator went to Rose City.
“The equipment can only go to an agency that has arrest and apprehension authority,” said Sass noting Akron doesn’t have that without a police officer.
However, steps are being taken to fill the open police chief position in Akron.
“We have some good (potential) candidates,” said police committee Chair Sherry Duke. “The candidates will be contacted for interviews.”
Although they have no authority in the process, Fairgrove Township officials asked to be able to participate in the search for a new officer.
In the meantime, Akron sent a check for about $16,000 to the village of Fairgrove and one for $11,000 to Fairgrove Township for the remaining portion of the police service they paid for and now do not have.
For the joint police coverage, villages each paid $19,416 each to have 15 hours of coverage a week, and the township paid $12,944 for 10 hours of coverage.
Also during the meeting, it was suggested the village go for a millage for public safety during next year’s election, and to check on possibility of being able to levy such a millage without a vote of the people.
Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mary Drier