Metro Detroit acting police chief is not a cop but carries a badge & gun

Posted at 10:45 PM, Aug 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-08 07:02:00-04

In most communities, people equate a badge and gun with someone being a cop. But, in the city of Sylvan Lake, the acting chief who runs the police force has both - despite not being a sworn officer.

People in the community say it's something they were unaware of, until our report.

Public Safety Director John Martin says he appointed himself to the position when the previous chief left, in order to save the city money. He's also the city manager and public works director.

"I wanted it clear I was not a police officer, not a certified officer, I'm just administrative," says Martin.

He adds, "I can't arrest and I haven't. I have never written a ticket. I can't run a police car with lights and sirens going."

But after showing him a photo we obtained of him carrying a gun and badge, he admitted to obtaining a concealed pistol license, in order to carry a weapon during the city's fireworks.

A CPL is something anyone can get - as long as they have no serious criminal history and are able to complete a 1 day training course.

Records show it was back in April 2013, city council voted 5-0 to appoint Martin to the job instead of hiring an actual chief. The savings to the city totaled $85,000.

Despite Martin's claims that council is happy with services, some citizens we spoke with said they feel short changed by not having a sworn officer as Chief.

Martin currently oversees four full-time and two part-time officers, plus several reserves.

Hermina Kramz, acting Executive Director of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards tells us each community can decide who runs their police force, however "police experience is invaluable when you're directing and causing officers to have to do things."

Expert attorney Wolf Mueller also handles many cases involving police misconduct, and says this situation raises concerns as far as possible litigation.

"I think every citizen should be concerned if all that person has is an 8 hour course on CPL training," says Mueller.

Martin disagrees, saying he's looking out for the citizens, and even doing the job without extra pay.

He says he's also choosing to leave his gun at home now, and looking for a new Chief.

"Its time for us to have another chief, I don't think I'm doing it the justice it deserves," says Martin.

So far, he hasn't said how soon a new chief could be hired, and tells us no interviews have been done.

The possibility of merging services with nearby Keego Harbor is also being discussed.