Reports of the Oxford Village Police Department having a mounted unit that’s going to Washington D.C. are false.
It’s true Kallie Roesner-Meyers and Bruce Meyers, both of Oxford Township, and Eugenia Calocassides, of Metamora, will be participating in the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade Jan. 20 as part of Michigan’s Multi-Jurisdictional Mounted Police Drill Team and Color Guard.
But they will not be doing so as members of the village police’s mounted unit.
That’s because the creation of such a unit was never green-lighted by the Oxford Village Council, therefore, it does not exist, according to officials.
That point was made crystal clear by council following a discussion that lasted more than an hour at its Jan. 10 meeting.
In a 4-1 vote, officials approved a lengthy and detailed motion, part of which stated council “has not reviewed, approved, authorized, sanctioned or otherwise allowed any mounted police division, reserve or otherwise, in the Village of Oxford.”
“I agree, 100 percent, we do not have an approved mounted unit,” said Police Chief Mike Neymanowski, who apologized to the three individuals if he gave them the “wrong impression” that such a unit had been formed.
The motion went on to state “the persons involved should be notified to cease any and all activities wherein there is a representation of any kind that they are part of the Village of Oxford Police Department in any way.”
It also required that a “legal communication” be sent to the Multi-Jurisdictional Mounted Police Drill Team and Color Guard “respectfully making it clear that these three individuals do not represent” and “are not associated with the Village of Oxford in any way.”
But this doesn’t mean the village will never consider having a mounted unit.
“Nothing in this motion prevents this issue from being presented to this village council at a future meeting,” it stated.
A matter of procedure
It was the chief’s Dec. 29 email to village Manager Joe Young requesting approval for the three “mounted reserve officers,” as he called them, to participate in the inaugural parade coupled with a Jan. 6 Oakland Press article highlighting the “newly created” village mounted unit that brought this issue to a head at the council level.
Neymanowski found himself on the hot seat as council members questioned and criticized him over what they viewed as his improper handling of this whole mounted unit issue.
“We have a procedural issue here,” said Councilman Erik Dolan. “These individuals have now participated in two events without authorization from council under, presumably, your direction. No one has given you authority to do that. You’ve taken it upon yourself to conduct this action.”
The two events Dolan was referring to are the 32nd Annual National Mounted Police Colloquium, a competition held last September in Lexington, Kentucky, and the Oct. 15 Scarecrow Festival in downtown Oxford.
In both cases, village police uniforms and patches were worn. The chief acknowledged the department provided them with these items.
Village President Sue Bossardet was upset because she believes Neymanowski had plenty of time to bring this to council for approval, but did not.
“You’ve had since September to take care of this and now 10 days before the (inaugural parade), you’re standing here admitting that we do not have a mounted division, that we don’t have any mounted division employees, and yet you want me to go along and approve an unauthorized unit, apparently that’s been functioning since September, to go on a trip somewhere,” she said. “And I’m not going to have it.”
How it got to where it is
Neymanowski provided council with some background. He explained that Roesner-Meyers, Meyers and Calocassides had all previously been reserve officers with the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit.
Roesner-Meyers and Meyers were sworn in with Lapeer in December 2013, while Calocassides was sworn in the following December, according to information provided by former Lapeer Undersheriff Robert Rapson in an Aug. 26, 2016 email to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. All three resigned in May 2016, Rapson wrote.
Following that, Neymanowski said they approached him about forming a mounted unit to serve Oxford.
“I said, well, that sounds like a great idea,” he said. “So, the plans were on the board.”
With regard to the competition in Kentucky, Neymanowski explained that Roesner-Meyers and Meyers approached him about it and asked if they could represent the village.
“I did say that would be okay since” they were in the process of becoming village reserve officers and there was the possibility of a mounted unit being approved, the chief said.
Following the competition, Neymanowski introduced Roesner-Meyers and Meyers to council during the public comment portion of the Oct. 11 village meeting. He talked about how they “represented our agency” in the Kentucky competition and performed well, and how they were willing to volunteer their time as part of a mounted unit for the village that would be an “extension of our reserves.”
“We’re in the process of doing that,” the chief said at the Oct. 11 meeting. He also mentioned how they might have an opportunity to participate in the presidential inauguration.
Council members provided positive feedback at that meeting.
However, that’s the only meeting at which the idea of a mounted unit was ever mentioned. Until the Jan. 10 meeting, the mounted unit issue had never been an agenda item, it had never been discussed by council and it had never been voted on by council.
Roesner-Meyers, Meyers and Calocassides went on to participate in the Scarecrow Festival with two of them wearing uniforms and patches that day as they interacted with the public. Meyers wore his Lone Ranger costume.
The problem is, none of them are reserve officers for the village, neither then nor now.
They’re not reserve officers
“They haven’t been, what I would say, officially sworn in,” the chief told this reporter in a follow-up interview. The process to make them reserve officers was begun, but never completed, he explained.
During the Jan. 10 meeting, Neymanowski referred to them as “certified reserve officers” and said “they had all the training.”
“It’s like an MCOLES thing,” he explained to council. “If you’re a certified police officer, you can work in any jurisdiction. They’re certified reserve officers. They can work (for) different police forces.”
MCOLES stands for Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. It’s the entity responsible for licensing law enforcement officers in the state.
According to John Steele, manager of the standards compliance section of MCOLES, what Neymanowski said is incorrect.
“There’s no such thing as a state-certified reserve officer,” Steele said. “We don’t require (reserves) to go through any training.”
Currently, local agencies, not the state, each determine what the training requirements are for their reserve officers.
However, that’s going to change in the future because of a new state law (Public Act 289 of 2016) that took effect earlier this month.
Steele explained MCOLES has been charged with researching and developing standards and training requirements for all reserve officers throughout the state.
“We have the authority to now regulate them, but we’ve got a lot of other things on our plate, too, so it’s going to take a while before (state standards are created),” Steele said.
When it was later pointed out to Neymanowski that there is currently no such thing as state certification for reserves, he acknowledged he was mistaken.
Neymanowski sent a Jan. 11 email to village attorney Bob Davis stating such. He wrote, “I now realize I said something that the three individuals were state certified reserves. That is incorrect on my part. They had completed a basic training program for police reserves and had worked for another agency. All were in the process of being considered to be mounted volunteer reserves with this agency. I understand there is no state certification for people who complete the program and they have to meet the eligibility criteria for each agency.”
Everett Gard, who runs the reserve officer training course at Oakland Community College (OCC), confirmed that Calocassides completed the 120-hour course there.
Roesner-Meyers and Meyers graduated from the Reserve Police Officer Academy at Macomb Community College (MCC), according to Jim Mietling, manager of advanced police training. The reserve academy is a 136-hour program, according to the MCC website.
Steele said completing these courses at OCC and MCC is “not a state certification.”
“It’s probably a good training program for reserve officers,” he said. “But it’s not (something that’s) standardized, across the state.”
Not happy about the uniforms
The fact that any of these three individuals were wearing village police uniforms and patches at public events was of grave concern to council. Councilman Tom Kennis worried about what could have happened to the village in terms of liability had there been an incident or an emergency situation, and someone made the “assumption” they were Oxford cops because of their uniforms.
“I see your point, Tom,” Neymanowski said.
“It’s a huge point, chief. It’s not a small point,” Kennis retorted.
“These are unsupervised, unauthorized, non-reservists, dressed up as Oxford cops and not on Oct. 31 (Halloween),” Kennis said.
“I absolutely agree about the uniforms,” said Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth. “I don’t think they should have uniforms if they haven’t been sworn in.”
Part of council’s motion requires that “all uniforms, patches, equipment or any other items provided to these individuals by the Village of Oxford shall be immediately retrieved.”
Following the Scarecrow Festival, Neymanowski explained to council that with the winter months approaching, he decided to “put (the mounted unit issue) off for a little while” and bring it to council in the spring.
But then in late December, he was informed that Roesner-Meyers, Meyers and Calocassides were selected to participate in the inaugural parade. Each was to be responsible for paying their own way, a cost of approximately $2,000 per rider and horse.
“I said wow, what a great opportunity for Oxford, not only (for) my agency, but for the community,” the chief said.
Given there wasn’t much time to get everything in order, Neymanowski told council he “made an executive decision” to “authorize” the three of them to move forward.
Roesner-Meyers told council the news they had been selected for the inaugural parade came “out of the blue” on Dec. 21.
“It happened fast,” she said.
She explained that prior to that, “the tryout for the inauguration was cancelled, so we assumed it wasn’t going to happen.”
Talking to the press
The chief told council he did not authorize anyone to contact or speak with the media about the inauguration invite, but “unfortunately” some items got out there “that weren’t exactly the facts,” such as Oxford having a mounted unit, when it does not.
In the Jan. 6 Oakland Press story, “Oxford mounted police unit ‘thrilled’ to be in Trump’s inaugural parade,” it was stated, “The mounted unit in Oxford was officially created last year. It assists at festivals and patrols local parks, trails and industrial areas. All officers were former mounted deputies with the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office before starting a unit for the Oxford Village Police Department.”
The only sources quoted in the Oakland Press story were Roesner-Meyers and a press release from the presidential inaugural committee. No one from the village police or village government was quoted.
During the council meeting, Meyers said he “cringed” when he read the story and blamed the reporter. “He came up with that conclusion (about the village having a mounted unit),” he said. “But that’s not something that we had ever said.”
“We’ve been very careful not to make that connection – not until everything was approved,” Meyers told council. “We were not representing ourselves as (the) Village of Oxford police mounted unit. We are a mounted unit, but we’ve never claimed a connection yet. We would like to have a connection in the future, but we’ve been very careful not to do that.”
Roesner-Meyers provided the Oakland Press with many photos of herself and the other two at events. A number of them show her and Calocassides wearing Oxford Village Police uniforms and patches. These were posted online.
Roesner-Meyers was upset by what happened at the council meeting.
“I did this to volunteer and help my community, not to subject the chief to this,” she told council. “I feel terrible that this has happened. I really just wanted to help.”
Roesner-Meyers pointed out that Neymanowski “very clearly” told council his plans for a mounted unit at the Oct. 11 meeting.
But Bossardet noted “it was done under public comment.”
Davis explained nobody’s saying the idea of having a mounted unit isn’t a good one. The issue is that the proper procedure for its creation was not followed.
“There was no vote that night. Would you agree?” Davis asked Roesner-Meyers.
“I didn’t know there needed to be one,” replied Roesner-Meyers, who’s spent many years serving on the Oxford Township Planning Commission as well as the zoning board of appeals.
“In order for the council to authorize something, it has to be on an agenda and then approved,” Davis explained.
“I just feel bad that something that was trying to be good and help the community is being used to penalize people,” Roesner-Meyers noted.
Still going to D.C.
Roesner-Meyers made it clear that just because the village didn’t want her representing it at the inaugural parade, that wasn’t going to stop her from participating on her own.
“We’re on the (drill) team. We go no matter what. I’m going there,” she said. “I am going whether or not I’m with the Oxford Village Police or not. I earned the right from my previous law enforcement experience.”
“You’re welcome to go wearing no village police paraphernalia, signs, badge, patch anything,” Bossardet replied.
“I am going down in a ceremonial capacity,” Roesner-Meyers noted. “I’m not going down for law enforcement (purposes). I’m going down to represent my community.”
Bossardet reiterated to Roesner-Meyers that “nobody is disputing your qualifications or anything else.”
The village president said the problem is “both of our administrators (Neymanowski and Young) know what the procedure is” and “procedure was not followed.”
Poor treatment or a need for change
Helmuth expressed her displeasure over how she feels the chief was treated by council.
“I think this is extremely inappropriate to speak to a valuable employee like this,” she said. “I don’t disagree that we should get the information. But I think we’ve been very disrespectful in the way (we’re treating) our chief of police, who has been nothing but respectful to us.”
“I do not believe he has lied to us. I do not believe he has used any strategy against us to create this mounted police (unit),” she continued. “And to be honest, I could care less if we have a mounted patrol. I just don’t care one way or another. Horses aren’t my thing.”
“This is no way to treat an employee who has done nothing but (be) honest with us, in my opinion. And I do not appreciate being part of it,” Helmuth said.
During the council member comments portion of the meeting, Helmuth said she was “embarrassed” by what happened and apologized to Neymanowski.
“I (do not) believe we have ever spoken so poorly to an employee of this village at a public meeting in my life,” she said.
Dolan responded that what transpired at the meeting was the “culmination” of many instances in which council “has been given incomplete, inaccurate, erroneous, deceptive information,” then expected “to make a legitimate decision based on that information.”
“Whether it is intentional or whether it’s unintentional, it’s unacceptable for a local government to function in that fashion,” he said.
To Dolan, the mounted unit issue is an example of “virtually every” necessary procedural step “being thwarted.”
“Nothing was done properly. Not a single step of it,” he said. “At one point or another, you have to put your foot down and say it’s necessary to do it right and I expect better than what we’ve done in the past. Whether that’s popular or not (is) irrelevant . . . I’m here to be a change-maker. This organization is mired in incompetence and I think it’s time to change it.”
Still part of the drill team
In the end, Roesner-Meyers, Meyers and Calocassides will still be able to participate in the inaugural parade even though they are not connected with any law enforcement agency.
That was the word from Lorenzo Veal, one of the founders of Michigan’s Multi-Jurisdictional Mounted Police Drill Team and Color Guard, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor.
“It’s not as though they were invited (as guests). They’re members of the team,” he said. “It’s not the (police) agency that’s going. It was the team that was invited.”
The drill team consists of almost 100 mounted officers representing many counties throughout Michigan.
Veal explained to this reporter these three individuals joined the drill team when they were members of the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit and they continue to be members despite their lack of police affiliation.
“Once you become a member of the team (you remain such) as long as you don’t commit a crime and as long as you don’t cause any what we call political problems,” he said.
In order to join the drill team, a person must be a member of a police mounted unit at the time he or she applies.
“The reason we take people when they’re on a police unit is because we figured the police unit did a complete background check before they got to us,” Veal said. “So, that’s our safeguard. You have to have been with a mounted unit before you can get with us.”
A total of 23 drill team members are participating in the inaugural parade, he said.
When asked what uniform, Roesner-Meyers, Meyers and Calocassides will wear in D.C., Veal replied, “Our team uniform.”
“We have our own uniform,” he said.
Chief heading to Washington
Council voted 5-0 to approve sending Neymanowski to represent the village in the inaugural parade.
He will ride with the drill team – not on a horse, but in a golf cart – along with two county sheriffs from Michigan.
“Certainly, I’m honored and privileged to do that,” Neymanowski said.