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Michigan Sheriff Claims Gas Costs Too Much To Respond To Calls

Their claims come despite a budget that's grown by more than 15 percent in two years.

Policing is expensive, if $1.97 billion in discretionary federal budget for cops and a total of $205 billion spent nationwide on corrections and policing are any indication. According to Michigan’s Isabella County Sheriff’s Department, rising gas prices are the final straw for police expenditures, as the sheriff announced via Facebook that deputies won’t be responding to non-emergency calls to save money on fuel.

In a since-deleted Facebook post from last week, Sheriff Michael Main wrote that deputies have been told to “manage non-in-progress calls, non-life-threatening calls, [and] calls that do not require evidence collection or documentation,” via phone calls rather than actual visits by the sheriff’s department. Main explained that the reason for this was because the county had “exhausted what funds were budgeted for fuel with several months to go before the budget reset.”

The Isabella County 2022 budget shows that the Sheriff’s Department received $3.7 million. Of that, the department allocated $40,000 for “Oil & Gas” expenditures for police operations (not related departments such as corrections/jails or animal control). According to budget records, the sheriff’s department’s total budget grew by more than $500,000 since 2020 to $3.7 million, but gas budgeting over the same two-year period had actually been lowered by $3,579.

Where is that money going? The Isabella County Sheriff’s Department acknowledged a request for comment from The Drive, but did not respond to this story. Budget records show that a majority of the sheriff’s budget increases have gone to salaries, which have increased by more than $300,000 since 2020. The sheriff’s department also set aside $105,423 for “new vehicles,” including a “Ford SUV” and a “Ford F-150” that total around $50,000 each after equipment installation.

At the same time, gas prices in Michigan are at a record high, with residents of the Wolverine State paying an average of $5.22 a gallon. Drivers across the country are cutting back on driving whenever possible, and police departments are responding similarly, so it’s not unprecedented to see a department reducing trips to save money. What is unexpected is the public announcement that police will not be showing up to a majority of calls. Whether rising gas prices will see a shift in police versus nonpolice budgeting or simply result in ever-larger police budgets remains to be seen, but trends in America certainly suggest the latter.

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