A new bill could impact operation of reserve police forces - WNEM TV 5

A new bill could impact operation of reserve police forces

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OAKLEY, MI (WNEM) -

Reserve police forces, including a controversial one here in Mid-Michigan, are once again in the spotlight.

TV5 has reported in depth about the concerns over the high number of reserve officers in the Village of Oakley.  But new legislation in Lansing could change the game.

The operation of Oakley's reserve police force has been at the center of months of controversy.

"I actually have no names of any reservists that I could actually give you," Oakley Village Trustee Francis Koski told TV5 in July.

The unknown that comes with the reserve police force was the focus of a TV5 I-Team investigation first brought to you in April.  In the small community of 300, police chief Rob Reznick has a reserve police force of roughly 100 people.  We've learned some reservists have donated upward of $1,000 dollars to the village, money that one village trustee tells us has gone toward funding the police department and other village operations.

"By the money that's been brought into this town, the board has turned around and basically let the police chief turn around, he owns this town, he runs his own police department," said Koski.

It's an issue that has divided the community, some even saying it creates a level of mistrust within the community.  Under current law, Reznick has the right to set the rules for his reserve force.  But Michigan State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Antwerp Twp., wants to change that.

"I really feel it's important and timely," said Schuitmaker.

She has sponsored a bill that would give a state agency more oversight of reserve police officers.  She represents the 20th district in Southwest Michigan and said she's been working on the bill for a couple of years, but recently put it in focus with a reserve officer controversy in her own backyard.

"Oftentimes, the public can't tell the difference between reserve officers and other police officers. So it's important to make sure that reserve officers aren't exceeding their authority delegated by law so this goes to clarify and strengthen that," said Schuitmaker.

Late last month, the state launched an investigation into Oakley's Police Department to determine if reserve officers are breaching the scope of their duties.  It is an investigation Reznick said he welcomes because he has nothing to hide and has done nothing wrong.

The bill could be introduced to the Michigan State Senate as early as next week.

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