Paw Paw Police Chief reports on a hard-working department to village council

Robin Racette Griffin –
	Paw Paw Village Police Chief Eric Marshall recognized members of his department for outstanding service in the line of duty during his annual report to the Paw Paw Village Council Monday evening. Commended for “jobs well done” were, from left: Det. Sam Carlsen, Officer Matt Johnson, Officer Tim McMeekan, Sgt. Eric Rottman, Sgt. Allen Parsell, Chief Marshall, Office Manager Teresa Svilpe, Cpl. Darren Williams, and Officer Andrea Walker.	Courier-Leader photo/Robin Griffin

    PAW PAW - “Community policing is alive and well in Paw Paw,” Village Police Chief Eric Marshall assured the Paw Paw Village Council Monday night during his annual report on the operations of his department. He noted that the crime rate has been rising over the past three years, and that has forced his officers to tend to their traditional law enforcement roles, which are generally reactive to the calls to the department. But his officers remain committed to the proactive activities of community policing.
    In 2019, the Paw Paw Village Police Department recorded 2,883 total complaints. From 2017 through 2019, the department made 226 felony arrests and 735 misdemeanor arrests.
    “That’s a lot!” Marshall emphasized. The most significant uptick for Marshall was that his officers investigated 259 retail fraud cases; 227 (88 percent) were at Walmart.
    The Narcotics Unit, handled 56 original complaints, five reports of po-tential drug activity, and assisted other agencies on 10 more cases.
    Marshall added that his officers also initiated 142 cases of blight ordinance enforcement, noting that statistics from 2017 estimated 36.6 percent of village residents earned in-comes below the poverty level, compared to the state average of 14.2 percent. Residences within the village were also estimated to be 68 percent renter-occupied, which the Chief said, are factors that do potentially impact the work the department does.
    “Our community policing is suffering,” he said. “We are getting to a point where something’s gotta give with the staff that we have.” The PPPD currently employs eight full-time officers and one part-time. This is down about two officers from where Marshall would like it to be. But having said that, the Chief noted he could not be prouder of the force he has. “They work hard. They care.” Despite the time and attention that must be paid to routine patrols, responding to calls, investigations, arrests and traffic enforcement, Paw Paw Village Police officers logged over a 1,000 hours on foot and bike patrols last year, making contact with village business owners, their employees, and citizens, according to Marshall’s report. They continued their T.E.A.M. teaching program with students at Paw Paw Public Schools and Trinity Luth-eran School, conducting more than 200 classes, and interacting with over 4,000 children. And, Marshall said, “T.E.A.M. is here to stay,” because the feedback from teachers, administrators and parents has been overwhelmingly positive, the officers enjoy it, and it is a proven proactive approach to future crime prevention.
    Marshall pointed to the department’s partnerships with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police,  and the Poka-
gon Tribal Police as critical to the safety of the community. The agencies share a Mutual Aid Agreement, “which means, if someone calls for help, you go,” said    Marshall. He thanked the council and village for their ongoing support and told them, “We welcome input from our citizens and government officials on how we can improve our service to the community.”
    Chief Marshall concluded his report with the presentation of honors to his officers, beginning with Department Commenda-tions.
    •Officer Matt Johnson was cited for his self-initiated activities; he was ack-nowledged for leading the department in traffic stops in 2018.     
    •Cpl. Darren Williams was recognized for his re-sponse to a domestic assault situation that elevated to an arson fire; he made sure an officer received medical attention while assessing and securing the scene.
    •Officer Tim McMeekan was given high regard for his handling of a criminal sexual conduct case; Mar-shall noted his compassion and sensitivity in working with the elderly victim, while his investigation re-sulted in a suspect’s arrest.
    •Det. Sam Carlsen’s investigation of a crashed vehicle on Ampey Road, and related break-ins of the Seelye-Paw Paw dealership and vehicles on the lot led to suspects’ arrests.
    The PPPD’s office manager Teresa Svilpe received the Chief’s Award for her outstanding service in carrying out her daily duties, and the special attention she gave to transitioning the department to a new phone system and the set-up of seven new computers. Her part-time records assistant Carolyn Doornhagg was given the Chief’s Commendation for filling in for Svilpe during an unplanned absence and keeping the office running smoothly.
    Sgt. Eric Rottman was given the Chief’s Award for Excellence for his ongoing fastidious investigations, case work, and evidence logging; his community policing outreach activities are “above and beyond,” according to Marshall.
    The chief presented three officers with four Department Life Saving Awards:
    •Officer Andrea Walker determined an unresponsive subject was the victim of a drug overdose and administered Narcan, an overdose-reversal nasal spray; the subject survived.
    •Walker received a second award for administering CPR to a subject who was not breathing until an emergency medical crew arrived to transport the patient to the hospital.
    •Officer Johnson also revived an unresponsive subject, who had overdosed, by using Narcan; the patient was taken to the hospital and survived.
    •Det. Carlsen determined an unconscious subject had overdosed on heroine and administered Nar-can, and saved his life.
    Chief Marshall also presented two of his staff with Letters of Commendation.
    •Officer Walker was acknowledged for her work processing the scenes and gathering information for a case of damage to several vehicles, bringing it to a quick conclusion
    •Det. Carlsen received the chief’s gratitude for his Community Policing initiatives, T.E.A.M. teaching, organizing of Public Safety Night Out, police department tours and other outreach activities.
    Referred to by Marshall as “the ol’ rock at the PPPD”, Sgt. Allen Parsell received the chief’s first Citation for Bravery in 10 years. While on a night patrol, Parsell tracked a haze in the air to a residence on Pine Street where the porch was engulfed in flames. “With total disregard for his personal safety,” he was able to rouse the residents and usher them to safety.
    Another Award for Bravery went to officers Johnson and McMeekan, who responded to a domestic dispute that resulted in the apartment being set on fire. They assisted complex tenants to safety, then continued to investigate the scene, though both suffered smoke inhalation.
    Chief Marshall told the council that each member of his department works hard to serve the community, its businesses and schools. “This is the one night a year I get to brag.”
    “Our village council is also very proud of our Paw Paw Police Department -- with good reason,” said Village President Roman Plaszczak. “It provides a tremendous amount of service to this community... not only as police officers, but as friends... There is a lot of respect for the department in the community. This town really does appreciate you.”
    In other business, the council set a public hearing  to take comments on an ordinance regulating the operation of medical marihuana facilities in the village.  The hearing will be held Feb. 10 during the council’s regular meeting.
    Village Manager Sarah Moyer-Cale told the council she has posted the ordinance, zoning maps and other information to view on the village’s website.

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