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  • Online form now available to report law enforcement officer encounter concerns

There was nearly a full house at the BIC Center along with about 60 Zoom attendees yesterday afternoon for St. James Township’s public safety meeting. Township Supervisor Bobbi Welke lead the meeting starting off by making clear that the purpose was to gather information about recent law enforcement actions, especially during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend—and to use that information constructively to address community concerns. The meeting was calm with all waiting their turn to speak, and it took a bit of cajoling from Bobbi to get folks talking.  An early theme that emerged was concern that the number of encounters seemed to be excessive compared to what occurs on the mainland. Here’s Angel Welke:

Angel Welke

A number of commentators told of being followed for excessive distances, in some cases all the way from town until they turned off onto down island roads. Some were stopped because they had dim taillights or a broken light and then asked to step out of their vehicles even though there appeared to be no basis for a reasonable suspicion that any law had been violated. Deb Robert told of her husband, Johnny B, ultimately just stopping after being followed for an excessive distance.

Debbie Robert

There were also a number of reports of what can only be described as inappropriate conduct by officers, including stopping people walking down the street for no apparent reason and this from Attorney Mary Beth Kur.

Mary Beth Kur

The island’s representative on the Charlevoix County Commission, Scott Hankins, was on the call and, after hearing these stories, had this reaction.

County Commissioner Scott Hankins

The general concern that evolved during the meeting was that there seemed to be a false perception about the general conduct of people in the community and that, contrary to Mr. Hankin’s view, the conduct of officers had been inappropriate and abusive. Island EMS director Chris McGee seemed to confirm some of these concerns with this behind the scenes look.

Chris McGee

Next steps are to collect written information about the encounters in question and then for township officials to meet with Sheriff Vondra to look for a way to address the concerns of the community. A full audio recording of the meeting is available at the link below. 

You may report the details of any encounter with law enforcement officers that you believe is of concern by completing the form at the link below.

Law Enforcement Encounter Report Form

The full audio recording of the meeting is available on Soundcloud from WVBI. The Zoom video recording is available here.

This story first appeared on The audio version of the story as reported on WVBI is here.

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