Clearing misconception cases about UP policing

As police officers, we often field a wide range of questions from citizens regarding laws, our procedures, civil processes, criminal procedings, crime trends and various other things.

We also end up getting questions about the weather. I don’t know why, but we get the calls. You may be better off getting ahold of Karl Bohnak for that.

I will try to clear up a few common things that people have some misconceptions about, at least locally.

We sometimes are questioned why there are so many police officers around here. Some people have the impression we have an overabundance of police officers for our quiet, safe, rural area. Yes, we are not in Chicago, but we have our share of incidents requiring police response. We are also not immune to some of the same activities commonly seen in the big cities.

In our tri county ( Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw) area, we have 14 law enforcement agencies covering 8,537 square miles. This is a lot of real estate. With that being said, a major portion of that is in Keweenaw County where Lake Superior falls within the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office and the MSP.

Depending on the type of incident, the United States Coast Guard and the federal US Customs agency also have responsibilities here as well. Overall, much of this 8,ooo-plus-square-mile area is covered with water.

Some police departments are covering sparsly populated sections over a large area, while others are covering densely populated areas in a small area. Keep in mind that many departments only cover or have jurisdiction in a relatively small piece of this territory. Although there are some mutual aid agreements in place for emergent matters, police departments generally just take care of their specific area.

In our area, we have a pretty limited number of officers serving the areas being covered. This can obviously affect response times, patrol coverages, and slow up the wheels of justice somewhat. Oftentimes, officers working these areas are on their own and have no immediate backup or any backup at all.

However, we do the best we can with what we have and work well together. Considering the points made above, we really don’t have an overabundance of law enforcement officers here.

When someone calls 911 to report an incident or ask for police services, the closest car concept is used and priority is given to any life-threatening or major calls. Dispatchers first must determine which agency holds jurisdiction there, and then sends the closest available unit. If it’s an emergency situation and no units with jurisdiction are available, an outside agency might possibly respond to get things under control.

People often want immediate justice if victimized by a criminal and question why the alleged perpetrator isn’t automatically being hauled off to jail. Though we may sympathize and understand this, people have to realize we have to abide by the laws and criminal procedure.

For an example, many misdemeanor offenses not committed in an officer’s presence prevent us from making an on-scene arrest. In this case, the matter is investigated and a report is completed and submitted to the county prosecutor for review.

If the information is sufficient and supports the charges applicable to the law, a decision is made to authorize an arrest warrant. The complaint and warrant is then reviewed and issued by a judge or magistrate who turns it back over to the investigating agency who is responsible for serving it.

These are the wheels of justice in action, and to be frank, it’s not always swift. You have to consider many of us are carrying caseloads with ongoing investigations and still need to respond to calls coming in and piling up. Many of these matters take time and require patience from everyone involved. Again, we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

Matt Djerf is the community service trooper for the Michigan State Police-Calumet Post.

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