By Jim DeVries, MCOLES Board Member

State government is gradually contracting and changing in adjustment to steadily decreasing revenue. If the state’s fiscal problems were confined to the state, this would be of limited consequence for local units of government. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. The condition of state government has enormous impact on municipalities, counties, villages, townships and municipalities.

This issue has a direct bearing on local law enforcement. Revenue sharing dollars from the state have shrunk while local revenue streams are drying up as well. There is little doubt that our declining population of law enforcement officers is a direct outgrowth of this problem.

MCOLES has just finished its annual registration. Through this process, law enforcement agencies report on where Michigan’s licensed law enforcement officers are practicing their profession. This is a statutory requirement that came to MCOLES at the end of the last decade. The preliminary indications from this year’s data indicate an increasing decline in the number of law enforcement officers in this state. Since September 11, 2001, over 2,000 law enforcement positions have been lost in Michigan. We are now below the 21,000 mark.

Not included in the information portrayed above are 46 layoffs that we’ve just learned about in the City of Flint. When we look for areas that have been impacted, we quickly discover that there are no communities that have been spared. The numbers are greatest in the large population centers however rural areas have proportionately suffered similar declines. Moreover, there is no form of law enforcement agency that has remained unscathed. This is an equal opportunity recession.

Despite these gloomy numbers, we do note that investment accounts seem to have recovered somewhat, as have some portions of big business, excluding the auto industry. We know from prior experience that government recovery always lags behind that of business. This observation would suggest that, from the standpoint of government, we are amid the worst of it.

In this atmosphere, the value of law enforcement service must be underscored at every opportunity. Remember, public safety is the first obligation of good government!