'Incredibly unsafe': Police in Melvindale say department is understaffed, overworked

Posted at 10:54 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-18 16:55:26-04

MELVINDALE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Those who protect and serve the community of Melvindale say the job is becoming impossible.

Several members of the police department spoke at city council meeting Wednesday night. They say the pay isn't high enough to retain officers and they're struggling to cover shifts.

In just the past year, officers at the Melvindale Police Department worked 2,168 hours of overtime collectively.

Currently the police department has 17 officers on staff. That includes those patrolling, administration and detectives.

They expect to lose two or three more by the fall.

"It is a safety issue right now," Melvindale Police Department Sgt. Humayun Rahman said. "It is incredibly unsafe for us to be out here short staffed."

Rahman says it's soul-crushing to know you're letting down a community you've swore to protect.

Officials say 24 members total on the department would be full staff.

The average officer usually leaves the department after only 21 months on the job. Rahman says he keeps training officers, but few of them stay.

"We’re here on weekends, we’re here on holidays," Rahman said. "I have a young son who is going to be talking soon and he is going to want to know where daddy is."

One after another, members of the department described their agony.

One officer in particular, Matthew Furman, says he and his partner were injured on a call and had to be hospitalized.

"As it was a weekend, there were no detectives to back us up. We called Dearborn and thankfully, they had officers to send," Furman said. "If Dearborn had been too busy, we would have been on our own."

Lt. Robert Kennaley says the starting pay for officers is competitive, around $46,000. But after five years, the most they can make is $61,000.

According to a handout from the department, that's $7,401 lower than neighboring Allen Park.

Kennaley also says officers receive no pension.

"We promise we are going to try to work with you to do what we can without sinking the whole ship." Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Jackson said.

Jackson and the rest of the council said this was the first they were hearing of these issues.

They mentioned Melvindale does not have the same tax base or budget as other larger cities, making the solution a lot more complicated.

"We had negotiations. We gave them (officers) a raise and then, other communities gave their officers a raise and other communities got our officers," said Lawrence Coogan, the city attorney for Melvindale. "I mean everything is going up."

Kennaley says the council has been receptive. Recently, the department was provided with two ballistic shields and a new gate.

He just feels like they’re at a breaking point.

"We asked for it and you gave it to us no questions asked," Kennaley said. "We are just in a bad situation."

7 Action News talked to residents who were shocked to hear some of this back and forth. They told us they were scared to know their officers may not be there to respond when they call.

We did reach out to the mayor for comment, but he is currently on vacation.