June 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Inkster chief asks Wayne County to take over police force

Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Detroit— Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon pitched a plan Wednesday to have the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office absorb his 24-member department.

The city of 25,000 is under a financial consent decree with the state and has seen its number of officers and police employees drop from 73 a few years ago to 25, including himself, said Napoleon, the brother of Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

“We cannot continue to operate with the number of officers we have. These officers are getting burned out,” he told Wayne County commissioners. “Everybody is doing much, much more with less.”

With cuts to the department as well as the county’s narcotics task force, crime has been going up, he said. The city had 16 homicides last year, up from 12 in 2012.

Inkster is applying for a $486,000 state grant to pay for making the department’s radios compatible with the county’s, three vehicles and uniforms. The plan has the blessing of Inkster police unions.

The city would pay the county the roughly $2.6 million police budget, said Inkster City Manager Richard Marsh.

The officers would need to apply to become deputies and start as new employees. Half of the officers don’t have health insurance or benefits.

Napoleon said he understood the plan would have to be without additional costs to the county, which has a $175 million deficit and a Sheriff’s Office that annually spends tens of millions more than it has budgeted.

“We are aware of your situation as far as budgets go in the county but this is an opportunity to improve the police services for the city of Inkster,” Napoleon said.

Savings would come from economies of scale, he said. Supervisory positions including that of assistant chief and his position, would be eliminated, allowing for the hiring of more law enforcement officers.

“If it means falling on the sword so these officers can get in the positions, I have no problem with it,” said Napoleon, who has 33 years in law enforcement. “Do you keep your department just to say you have a department or do you want to provide services to the community?”

Commissioner Ray Basham, D-Taylor, questioned if it would be feasible to absorb the Inkster officers at no additional cost. He worried about the liabilities facing the county if a deputy is involved in an incident while in the city.

“If you’re Wayne County and you’re in charge of something and something goes wrong, you get sued,” Basham said.

Commissioners said they would review the plan. The city needs a letter of intent from the commission by Aug. 2 to continue with a feasibility study of the plan. Commissioner Ilona Varga, D-Lincoln Park, promised an answer before the August deadline.

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Police Chief Hilton Napoleon left, with officers Susan Beauvais and ... (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)