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Posted on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Washtenaw County: 5 police chief jobs vacant as role sees 'unprecedented turnover'

By Paula Gardner

The retirement of Barnett Jones as chief of Ann Arbor's police department brings the total number of open chief positions in Washtenaw County to five.


Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones talks during a July 27 news conference at the Ann Arbor Justice Center about the string of sexual assaults in the city.

Angela J. Cesere |

And while that position may be the most visible in a police department, the retirements are affecting every level of local forces, according to recent retirement announcements.

The effect is "unprecedented turnover," said Bob Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police in Okemos.

In Washtenaw County, the openings for police chief include:

  • Saline, where Paul Bunten just retired.
  • Milan, where Jeff Lewis left to take a job in Muskegon.
  • Eastern Michigan University, where Bob Heighes remains interim chief as administration sifts through applications in preparation for interviews.
  • University of Michigan, which assigned Deputy Police Chief Joe Piersante to the interim role for the second time after the late Greg O'Dell left the job after a few months.

Stevenson said police officers enter the profession "knowing they won't get rich."

He continued: "We exchanged low pay for better benefits for our whole career, but at the end of our career, they’re changing (things)."

One example: When existing contracts expire, public employees will have to pay 20 percent of health care costs after legislation passed in 2011.

"Many people who are eligible to retire have to retire," Stevenson said.

"We are seeing a lot of turnover," he said. "They worked their whole career for those benefits."

While Stevenson stressed that he doesn't know whether that circumstance played a role in Jones' decision, he said the wave of retirements is compounded on the other end of the job spectrum by the lack of qualified applicants for the open positions.

Among other retirement impact in area police departments: Nine officers retired in 2011 from Ann Arbor, representing 205 years of experience. And in Ypsilanti, nine of 30 officers - about 1/3 of the department - could leave its ranks this year.



Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 4:46 a.m.

Way too many chiefs. The county needs one sheriff and the rest deputies. Consolidation and coordination is the name of the game in times of change.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

To push a little truth into this argument <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The median level for patrol officer is $51K.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

It is time for him to go fishing, and enjoy life for a while. God knows how much pressure this man has been under trying to protect us, especially after loosing so much of his force here, and putting him on the spot to fire people he had grown close to. Also having to deal with another A2 rapist. I say so long and good luck fishing Sir. Your retirement is well deserved.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

A perfect time to quit paying 5 top dogs! Consolidate! It is so silly to have all these seperate entities and keep paying it into the future is just a waste.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Too many chiefs in the kitchen already! Consolidate! Great time to do that now...


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3 p.m.

We could consolidate everything and have a NATIONAL CHIEF OF POLICE. Cut out a lot fo government waste. Why have local people running things when ONE person could run it from some other place. Ridiculous. Decentralization should be the trend.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

The gravy train is over, they all realize it, and they're all grabbing the bounty before the electorate takes the hits that are coming their way and demand that the types of benefits they are receiving must end. I've spoken to a number of government employees and they are quite candid about the fact that they are worried about cuts in the future and are getting out while they can lock in what they will get in retirement. Every man for themselves................


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

Northfield Township Police Dept. doesn't have a Chief, either. The Fire Chief runs the dept.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

Don't worry about these guys! Rumor is they are getting together and opening a spot at Mark's Carts.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

Well, to be honest, 2 of the 5 positions ere left vacant by the same person within a 2 month time frame. So yes 5 are vacant but the number is inflated by the abrupt changes at both universities. It seems to be more and more likely to see police moving dept to dept to sweeten retirements. How many police chiefs have spent any length of time in that particular dept in that particular position? None that i can think of. For instance the ex-Milan chief retired from Ypsi CIty, went to Milan, now to another city. Unless the retirement terms change for public administrators, I do not think this will change any time soon.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 10:48 p.m.

Ann Arbor will sorely miss Chief Jones. He is a consummate professional, leader, and collaborator. He was more than our &quot;police chief,&quot; as he led the fire dept, as well. We will miss you Chief Jones. Best wishes in your &quot;retirement.&quot; Good luck in finding a replacement of his caliber, especially in the context of aforementioned vacancies. Mayor and council are very interested in cross training fire and police. Maybe now they should lead the way, cross training, as well. Of course, probably not one of them could meet the physical, mental, or emotional requirements of either job.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

HUH? Maybe not, this decision came in right after his statement about the rapist, and there were many negative feelings toward his statement. I would have felt uneasy too, and want to just retire, and hand the mess too the next chief. He has several pensions coming from the several high positions he has worked in the past, so I doubt his decision had to do with finances.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.

How true! Yes men like this are hard to find!


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Geez I know right!? What do we even need cops for anymore!? 90% of you &quot; residents &quot; don't even follow simple traffic's laws ie: complete stops, turn signals, speed limits in school zones, following distance.... can't blame them for not wanting the job. To you folks &quot; hypocrisy is your greatest luxury&quot;.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

@Hondo: Very well said. To that, I would add the frustration of chasing the guy with large criminal history, see how judge dictates 3 days of prison, a bond of $10,000 and lets him free by posting 5 bucks.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Many of the police officers on the AAPD earn more than members of the County Prosecutor's office with their overtime pay - largely for sitting around in court waiting for their cases to be called by the judge. The officers with higher ranks are making huge base salaries that dwarf what other city employees make. AAPD officer compensation packages need to be cut down to size.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

As it happens, I am neither. Is anything I said incorrect? No. Do you have to be a cop to call people on their misinformation? No. People want to complain, great. They should at least be complaining about reality, and not some self-serving fantasy.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:07 a.m.

Gee. Sounds like we have a badge heavy cop or retired cop with a chip on his shoulder. No surprise there.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

And I suppose it is the police officers who mandate that they spend their time off sitting in court, and not department administrators and PROSECUTORS, right? I guess you know so much about how it works, that you are familiar with the common practice of issuing a subpoena to anyone who was even on-duty at the time of the crime, calling them into court, making them sit around for hours only to discover later that the prosecutor was negotiating a settlement the entire time? Or had already gotten a postponement and &quot;neglected&quot; to inform anyone? I'm sorry for all the family vacations you've had to cancel, after you purchased non-refundable plane tickets, because the prosecutor's office &quot;forgot&quot; about the memo you send them a month before your vacation and must have you in court on a day you were supposed to be gone.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

Mr. Stevenson needs to research the profession for which he is the executive director. Police officers earn their income, no question, but to state that they make &quot;low&quot; pay is absolutely absurd. Law enforcment is extremely well compensated.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:12 a.m.

Pardon me, Ex-Husband.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:04 a.m.

Well now, your husband is not simply a police officer, he's a Lt Detective. Compare the total amount of Lt. Det's to the road officers. Now compare road officer salaries across the state to your husbands position. I know of officers that work the road (and some for over 8 years) that are unable to move up in ranking because either the department doesn't have that position, that position is taken, or others are in-line to get it first. I wonder if your husband complete agrees with your statement of &quot;Law Enforcement is extremely well compensated&quot;. I know what alot of road officers make at various departments across the state, I've worked the road, and let me tell you, it's no where near 160k like your Lt. Detective husband.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

My ex-husband is a Lt. Det with a township in Washtenaw/Wayne County. According to our disclosed child support case, he cleared over 160K last year with overtime, excluding benefits. He has 8 yrs experience. Any more questions?

Mr. Ed

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

How much do they make mGill?


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Poor babies. They have to pay &quot;20% of health care costs that they worked their whole career for so they have to retire?&quot; How about people who have to pay 50%, 70%, 100% ? If they retire, they get a pension, and can move on to another job, spend 5 years, and get another pension, etc, etc. Would that all of us were so lucky.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

&quot;but I am saying being a prior cop on the beat is NOT a necessity&quot; ...wrong

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

kraiford12, how about if I rephrase the auto one. You don't' have to have any prior experience in the auto industry period to be a CEO of a multibillion dollar car company. And you ignored my hospital CEO comparision. I'm not saying just anybody can be a chief of police, but I am saying being a prior cop on the beat is NOT a necessity. It might be helpful but not a requirement. And your description of an auto CEO &quot;They handle administrative high-end company matters, business.... money.&quot; while rather simplistic to a large degree describes a police chief too.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

If you had any basic reading comprehension the article is not just discussing the chiefs. The rank and file beat cop is also forced to pay 20% of their health care. They took a job for lower pay than they would have originally wanted IN EXCHANGE for better benefits and pensions. How is that hard to understand. My actual pay is less than it would be if I worked for a competitor, BUT I made the decision I wanted better health coverage, and other benefits (very large matching 401k, vacation, tuition reimbursement etc). If my company decided to take them away, I would immediately call the competitor and ask when they want me to start. The cities are in the same boat. Having run Ann Arbor police, he could easily apply for a corporate security position and make far more money. He could take his talents out of state (which is what is actually happening in Michigan now), or he could retire. What the hell business is it of yours how many pensions he has? I guess you think the city should just decide to rip up the contract they signed and not honor comittments Typical of the right wing


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

@Craig Lounsbury Chief of police is simply not an administrative position. Yes it varies from department to department (some chiefs work the road). But one can't just hop into the position. You need to have such and intimate understanding of daily procedures, such an understanding can only come from years of experience. Not to mention Police Chief's are sworn Police Officers. They have the power to arrest. So I'm sorry, but saying &quot;without&quot; the police experience many would be qualified is wrong. And saying &quot;without working on the assembly line you can't be CEO of a car company&quot; is just wrong. CEO's of a car company don't need to know intimate details of the line workers process. They handle administrative high-end company matters, business.... money. Ontop of that they are concerned with company profit, so they more often then not decide how many worker they can fire as to still receive their &quot;earned bonuses&quot;. Additionally, you're comparing the sensitive nature of police work to an auto company. We are talking about public safety, safe keeping of property, and human rights.... not model options, ABS, or optional AWD.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

C. S. Gass, neither police nor fire are top 10 dangerous jobs. Roofers, construction workers people who drive for a living are all more likely to &quot;not come home at the end of the day because they were 'doing their job'.&quot; Look it up.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

kraiford12, &quot;It would be like saying &quot;Without med school and a hospital internship, many would qualify to be a surgeon&quot;. No it would be like saying without working on the assembly line you can't be CEO of a car company. Or to use your medical analogy without being an MD you can't be CEO of a hospital. The fact is you can.

C. S. Gass

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 10:28 a.m.

Yeah, how about those people who, &quot;have to pay 50%, 70%, 100% ?&quot; I bet they don't do jobs where they might not come home at the end of the day because they were 'doing their job'. I wonder if the &quot;100%'ers&quot; are expected to run TOWARD the gunfire, the carnage and the possibility of death when it happens... I doubt it. You don't pay police officers and fire fighters for what they routinely do, you pay them for what the might have to do. For someone with the moniker of 'thinker', you should try it sometime...


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:17 a.m.

@ Tesla &quot;The chief of police is an administration position. I would hazard a guess that sans police experience, there are many here qualifies to administer the office.&quot; For those who don't know sans means without. To be blunt, you're incorrect. You can not just willy-nilly remove one of the most important requirements of a position and say &quot;without it (sorry, sans) many qualify&quot;. It would be like saying &quot;Without med school and a hospital internship, many would qualify to be a surgeon&quot;.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:05 a.m.

Relax Vet. All thinker is saying is that in this day and age you aren't getting any sympathy saying we didn't do this to get rich, while we all know all the chiefs make 6 figure salaries with mega benefit and pension packages which goes over like a ton of bricks in this economy with people struggling with much much less. The chief of police is an administration position. I would hazard a guess that sans police experience, there are many here qualifies to administer the office.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

What does luck have to do with it? Nothing's stopping you, or anyone else, from applying and wearing the badge. Simply pass the background check, psychological and medical testing, and be willing to work years of midnight shifts, holidays and weekends. Have at it. Are you unhappy with your own choices? Whose fault is that? Why so much hostility at others for their choices? These people didn't develop the benefits packages they accepted. Are you not aware of this? These people applied for a job, offering their backgrounds and abilities, in return for benefits devised and *offered* by the people you elected into office. Ever attend a council meeting during contract negotiations? Ever ask a candidate what their position on salary and benefits was before you voted for him/her? Ever attend a council meeting and complain about the vesting period?


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

Then apply for the job..what not qualified ? Then don't complain!