Hesperia village enters contracts with Oceana, Newaygo sheriffs for police service.

April 18, 2022

Hesperia village enters contracts with Oceana, Newaygo sheriffs for police service.

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By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HESPERIA — The Village of Hesperia has been without a police chief for several months following the resignation of Chief Louis Herremans late last year.

Due to Herremans’ departure and the resignation of the village’s other full time officer, the village has been lacking a police presence. In order to temporarily fill the gap, the village council unanimously approved contracts with both the Oceana County and Newaygo County sheriff’s offices to temporarily provide one deputy each until its police department is adequately staffed. 

Hesperia is uniquely situated in the two counties.

The Oceana County Board of Commissioners voted during a special meeting last week to allow the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office to provide police services for the village, said Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast. The village council OK’d the agreement in March, said Hesperia Village President Mike Farber.

Farber stressed that the situation is temporary. “We’re not shutting down our police department,” he said. “We just did interviews for a chief, but the fit wasn’t good for us, so we’re continuing our search.

“We still want to keep our own (department), but we want to have coverage. So, I approached both Oceana and Newaygo counties, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Farber said. “We’re just finalizing the paperwork with the lawyers right now.”

Both the former chief and the former full-time officer resigned to work for other agencies. 

“For the small villages, it’s really tough, because we’re a stepping stone to go to another department,” said the village president. “Hesperia is only so big — one went to Newaygo County, and the other one went to Lake County.

“We’ve got some applications for officers, but we don’t feel we can have officers on duty until we have a chief in place. We have a couple part-time officers, and we don’t dare let them work because of the liability.”

Each deputy will provide services 48 hours per week, said Sheriff Mast.

“Based on a financial assessment completed by Undersheriff (Ryan) Schiller, the monthly cost of the policing agreement, if approved by the village council, is $9,021,” said Oceana County Administrator Robert Sobie.  “The term of the agreement is April 7 through June 30, unless otherwise extended. Services will be performed by a deputy(ies) assigned by Sheriff Mast and will use a county patrol vehicle which is included in the overall financial assessment.

“Because the village exists in both Oceana and Newaygo counties, a coordinated policing agreement between the village and the sheriffs is important,” said Sobie.

The $9,000 cost includes “everything,” said Mast, including the deputy’s wages, fringe benefits, vehicle expenses and uniform expenses. The Newaygo County agreement is close to the same price, said Farber.

Undersheriffs from each county will handle the scheduling of the deputies in the village, said Farber. Having a deputy on patrol for after-school activities is key, he said. “Our schedule is kind of a work in progress.”

The deputies, who will use county patrol cars and wear county uniforms, will work out of the Hesperia Police Department office, said Farber. Reports will be generated through the county computer systems.

“The village pays us, and we supply the deputy,” said Mast. “Contracts of this nature are very common in other counties throughout the state, such as Ottawa County does all the policing for the Village of Coopersville.”

“The county will employ another deputy who has worked in a seasonal role,” said Mast.

The sheriff’s office could engage in more similar agreements with other villages. “We’re open to that conversation moving forward. If the villages want to employ us to do their policing, that’s an option.”

“My deputies will not be contracted to do some things that village officers are contracted to do, like ordinance enforcement. I’m not going to have deputies get involved in blight enforcement.”

Farber said ordinance enforcement has normally been handled by the police chief. “We’ll have to find another avenue of how to handle that.”

Farber said he expects the deputies to begin duties in Hesperia within the next 10 days.

“This is kind of an experiment for everybody to see how it works. Everyone has been working well together.”

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