Waterford chief in sign theft probe
Waterford Township – — One of Oakland County's top police chiefs is under investigation by the Michigan State Police for allegedly removing yard signs urging residents to "Vote No" on new taxes including a police millage during a recent election.
The focus of the probe — Waterford Township Police Chief Daniel T. McCaw — was allegedly questioned by one of his own patrol officers during a late night stop in July after he was spotted removing political signs before the August primary. A police millage renewal that was at stake was eventually passed by Waterford's voters.
"These are just accusations at this time and they are being looked into but outside of that we have no comment," said Waterford Township Supervisor Gary Wall, when asked Friday to discuss the incident. "There are lots of rumors flying around."
When reached for comment, McCaw described the accusations as baseless and he believed initiated by a "disgruntled officer." He declined to discuss the investigation or the incident that reportedly was taped on a patrol car video camera, according to sources.
Fred Timpner, executive director of the state's largest police union, the Michigan Association of Police, which represents 55 officers in Waterford, confirmed a state police detective had interviewed at least one of its members regarding stolen signs and McCaw's involvement. After being contacted, the member, who never wrote a formal report on the incident, feared he might be in trouble and contacted his union, Timpner explained.
Timpner said the township officer working a midnight shift in July became suspicious when he saw a white Jeep pull behind a commercial building and its headlights were turned off.
"Officers had been advised to be on the lookout for persons stealing political signs," Timpner said. "This officer noticed a suspicious vehicle and found a person taking signs out of the vehicle and disposing of them in a Dumpster. He was surprised to find the person involved was his chief."
McCaw reportedly told the officer he had been out that night knocking on doors of township residents with "No New Taxes" signs on their lawns and convincing them that passing a public safety millage renewal was in their best interests, Timpner said.
"(McCaw) told the officer he had changed some voters' minds and they also gave him permission to take their signs with him when he left," Timpner said.
The investigation could ultimately result in misdemeanor criminal charges or possible internal disciplinary action for McCaw, a decorated veteran officer who was appointed Waterford's top cop in 2006.
In 2012 after a township mother and her teen son were found stealing a President Barack Obama re-election sign from a yard, McCaw issued a press release that such behavior would not be tolerated in the community.
"The Waterford Police Department receives complaints about stolen election signs during every election cycle," McCaw said in a press release two years ago. "It is unfortunate that some people don't respect every citizen's right to support their candidates and the ballot proposals and resort to stealing signs in hopes of one less voice being heard."
If the accusations are true, it would not be the first time an Oakland County official has been caught stealing signs.
In 2008, then-Clarkston District Judge Dana Fortinberry was videotaped yanking another judicial candidate's signs out of the ground along a roadway to the district courthouse.
Fortinberry lost her bid to be re-elected.