No outside patrols requested after days of sick calls plague Saginaw police

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

After days of supplementing manpower for a Saginaw Police Department thinned by officers calling in sick, the Saginaw County Sheriff's Office was back Tuesday to its own duties: running the jail, court security and road patrols.

The Saginaw County Sheriff's Office was not asked Tuesday to provide personnel to the Saginaw Police Department as it had in recent days.

More:Saginaw police call in sick after officer’s firing

The high volume of sick calls came after a Saginaw Police Department officer was fired. The officer was accused of hitting a woman who allegedly spit on him, the Associated Press reported.

When Saginaw Police Chief Bob Ruth asked for assistance Friday, the sheriff's office asked for volunteers and got enough for three two-man cars. One of the volunteers was Undersheriff Miguel Gomez, a 26-year veteran of the force.

Officers could have been "drafted" into duty, but it didn't come close to that, Gomez said. The sheriff's office sent over four to six officers per shift Friday night, Saturday morning, daytime Monday and Monday night.

"Our guys stepped up," Gomez said. 

Their help was not requested Tuesday, Gomez said, but "we would have helped as long as needed."

Who will pay for overtime for those officers has not been discussed, Gomez said. 

"Citizens need and expect safety and protection, and they deserve it," Gomez said. "People should be able to call 911 and expect that someone will be there to help."

The sheriff's office had reason to believe the low staffing situation would last only a few days, Gomez said, but he deferred comment on the issue to officials with the city of Saginaw.

There were some "waves and honks" from people as sheriff's vehicles patrolled the city, Gomez said. But generally the public's attitude was, "'good to see you, but what are you guys doing?'" he said.

That made things awkward, he said, because deputies didn't want to comment on another department's issues. 

"We were asked and we helped, and it's as simple as that," Gomez said.

Mayor Floyd Kroc, via email, told The News late Tuesday that "today staffing went normally and we don’t expect the issue will continue."

Saginaw Police Department and the police union did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Michigan State Police, which had also supplemented the department's forces.

“We want residents to be confident that the streets are being patrolled and if there is a need to call 911, they will have a prompt response time, regardless of what uniform the responding officer is wearing,” Ruth told the AP.

The union representing officers told the AP on Monday there was no organized effort to reduce staffing.

A May no-confidence vote about the chief also “is not the root cause” of the shortage, although Ruth hasn’t addressed concerns, the Saginaw Police Officer Association said in a written statement.

The city told the AP it is investigating why officers were missing work. 

Associated Press contributed.