By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Oxford Village Police Dept. now has five fulltime patrol officers. The Village Council approved an additional position in a 4-1 vote at its Feb. 9 meeting. Part-time officer James Irish, 25, was promoted to the new position.
The council previously denied a request by Police Chief Mike Solwold to create the new position last year because of budget uncertainties due to the pandemic.
The council added a fourth full-time position in 2019, which brought the department’s staffing level back to where it was prior to the 2008 recession when the department had to cut one full-time cop from its payroll.
It’s still not enough to meet current demands. Solwold said the department has been over-reliant on part-time help for years.
“Part-time should not be used or relied on for a 40-hour rotation,” Solwold wrote in a memo to council. “Part-time is how it is stated and should only be used if an officer calls in sick, goes on vacation or is needed as extra for an event. For officer safety they should always have a second car to rely on for back up or to help with call volume.”
Besides the full-time officers, the department has four part-time and 13 reserve officers. Reserves are volunteers and receive no pay.
“We spend valuable time and money training officers on average three to six months per year, for them to turn around and be certified and trained and get another job at another agency because they’re offering benefits,” Solwold said.
Not having to train so many officers will save the department money overall, he added, since they were already paying a part-timer to work 40-hours a week to help cover all the shifts.
“We average over 6,000 calls per year. The calls are on the rise . . . The need is there. The reliability of waiting for another outside agency to come to our aid when they could be tied up on another call and they’re short-staffed as well, is a danger to the officers.”
Councilmember Maureen Helmuth voted no. “I have no problems with hiring a fulltime police officer,” she said, but she would prefer to do it at budget time.
“I totally get it,” Solwold said. “Thank you guys, I appreciate it.”
Officer Irish joined the department in January 2020. Last year, he took 20 drunk/drugged drivers off the road, made 44 arrests and stopped over 1,600 traffic violations, according to the department. “I’d like to thank the community for continuing to put trust in me and I look forward to serving,” he said.
Irish grew up in the small, unincorporated town of Sidney in West Michigan, near Greenville where he went to high school. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Wayne County Regional Police Academy.
The first in his family to work in law enforcement, he said it was the community aspect that drew him to the field. It’s also what attracted him to Oxford. “I didn’t want to go to a big department where I would just be another number,” he explained.
Oxford seemed like a perfect fit for him and his wife. “This place has a charming small town feel unlike even other villages in Oakland County. People have been incredibly inviting.”
By James Hanlon