FIRST IN PRINT— Chief Todd says community policing in Metamora suffers 'severe wound'

DeWayne Bartels
Metamora Police Chief Mike Todd, in foreground, explains the technology in his police vehicle to MTHS senior Gage Turner, 18. Todd says if changes made by the Metamora Village Board to his manpower structure put the concept of community policing at risk in the village.

Metamora Police Chief Mike Todd is one unhappy cop. Todd said major changes took place in his department on May 1, changes that came without any of his input.

The change in how police manpower is managed will result in a much smaller police profile in Metamora Schools, Todd said. In addition, he said, the changes will put the concept of community policing on the back burner in Metamora.

Trustee frozen out, too

Don Hutchens shook his head.

Hutchens, a Metamora Village Board Trustee, when asked about what happened, said he did not have a lot of answers. He said, like Todd, he is out of the loop.

Hutchens said that members of the village board’s contract committee — made up of  Mayor William Belshaw and trustees Laure Adams and John Heinz — brought the idea of changing the shift configuration of the department to a vote without talking to Todd or the members of the village board’s police/fire/ESDA committee.

“None of the officers complained about the previous arrangement,” Hutchens said.

Hutchens, a member of the police/fire/ESDA committee, said such a move was out of character for the village board.

“We have been in the midst of negotiating a new police contract. I had no input on this,” he said.

“The chief had no input. Why this was done is something you will have to ask the village president (William Belshaw),” Hutchens said.

Belshaw was out of the country on vacation.

Hutchens said this situation struck him as odd.

Hutchens said he hopes this is not a move aimed at forcing Todd out.

“He has my support, 100 percent,” Hutchens said.

Hutchens said he has talked to members of the public including the school superintendents.

He said the people he has talked to are not happy about the changes.

“They don’t like this program,” Hutchens said.

However, when contacted by the Woodford Times, officials at MTHS did not offer strong sentiments condemning the change.

“We really appreciate all that Chief Todd does for us. We’re probably a big part of their case load,” MTHS Superintendent Ken Maurer said.

“At the same time we know what the village is going through.”

MTHS Dean of Students Bob Schlemmer, said, “They have been a very valuable resource to us. If they have only one officer on days, it will not free up Chief Todd to work here.

“Most kids are taught when young to respect the police. As they grow older they begin to fear them. (Todd) has tried to build up that relationship.”

Odd question

Trustee Laure Adams, who served on the negotiating committee where the schedule change was born, addressed the issue before the beginning of the May 3 Metamora Village Board meeting.

She said Hutchens was wrong when he said the police/fire/ESDA committee was not involved.

“(Trustee) John Heinz is on the police committee. The schedule was developed. Input from the police was sought,” Adams said.

That input came from the police members on the negotiating committee, not Todd.

“I can’t say why input was not sought from the chief. I didn’t personally seek any input from him,” Adams said.

“He was brought in during the negotiating process, but the schedule was not an issue then.”

Adams said the union agreed to the new schedule.

When asked if Todd being left out of this discussion indicated his job was in trouble, Adams said, “That’s an odd question. Why would you ask that?”

In the March 30 issue of the Woodford Times, Todd made some statements concerning the village board in an article about whether Metamora’s reputation as a speed trap is justified.

“I’m not a politician. I’m not elected. I don’t have to enforce the law based on what it might do to the number of votes I get,” Todd said.

Todd said, later in the article, the number of tickets issued in 2009  being lower than those issued in 2010 had an explanation.

“The numbers in 2009 are due to the fact that some of our board members were not happy about our reputation and asked us to back off,” Todd said.

Adams dismissed the idea those statements — made just weeks before he was shut out on the schedule issue — could have created tension  between Todd and the village board.

Todd speaks out

Todd was hesitant to talk about the situation at first.

But, after learning the issue had already been addressed by others in the community he spoke to the Woodford Times.

“The general consensus I’m getting from a portion of our village board is that they do not feel they need to pay me to interact with the kids at the schools,” Todd said.

“I’m outraged. My whole perception as a police officer is first to protect and second to serve, which is what I’m doing in the schools.”

Todd said this manpower change would not be a fatal wound to the concept of community policing in Metamora.

“I will not let that happen while I’m here. It will, however, be a severe wound,” Todd said.

“Eighty to 90 percent of criminal cases get solved with public involvement. In order for kids, or adults, to feel comfortable with the police they need to know the officers. That’s what community policing accomplishes.”

Todd would not reveal why he thinks this has happened.

“I know the reason, but I can’t say,” Todd said.

“It’s not financial. This change will cost more. There will be overtime costs and more vehicle costs.”

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