Building Trust through Media Exposure and Community Engagement

The Newaygo City Police have just six full time officers, three part-time officers, and several reserve officers. However the small police department has a K9 donated by an anonymous wealthy donor. Our K9 has had $155,000 of training and holds French Ring 3 certification.

The Newaygo police will soon have its drone program up and flying, and will train the K9 to work and integrate with the drone for victim recovery, lost persons, and more safely tracking suspects. The K9 will also be trained to key on the drone should the drone locate someone or something of interest. The use of the K9 to actually learn to go to the drone is something we have not heard of any other department doing with drone/K9 integration. The Newaygo Police are also responsible for river rescue along the fast flowing Muskegon River, where the K9 and drone will be used for search and rescue.

The reason our small department with a small budget is so supported by donors, citizens, and elected officials is that we are competent in a day where agencies have recently been called on the carpet for failing to act. Our competence is derived directly from our engagement with our community and the exposure we enjoy in the media. Recently channel 9 and 10 out of Cadillac, Mich. contacted the Newaygo Police Department and asked us if they could travel 90 miles to do a story on us. As we are active on our Facebook page, the news reporters enjoy a positive perception of us based on their monitoring for police activity. This is due to our community policing philosophy, and yes, occasionally we are known for providing entertainment.

Although we do traditional policing and make arrests, search houses with search warrants, and run complex investigations, we enjoy interacting with our citizens. We gave away 20 Christmas turkeys to our citizens in a program we called “Turkeys not Tickets.” It was aired by Grand Rapids’ ABC affiliate WZZM Channel 13 and Fox affiliate WXMI channel 17. Two of our officers delivered a lost Christmas package and delivered it to the house the young girl was at, in another town, during their Christmas party. That story appeared on the IACP Facebook page as well as the local TV news media already mentioned.

One of the best ways to promote a police department is with the use of a dedicated department PIO. The PIO has to be a believer in the department, and trust the chief’s mission. I can say after 30 years in the business that Chief Georgia Andres is the tops. Don’t just listen to me, ask any of the town’s residents and you’ll get the same, except for her name. The citizens all know her by her maiden name from when she was a young girl patrolling the streets as an 18-year-old member of the sheriff’s posse. I believe we have the greatest department in the world when it comes to training our citizens, or enjoying a church meal with them.

I guess I’m the public information officer. Probably the only need for me is so that people outside of our county will realize how well the job can be done. We are imitated often, and we take pride in that. When nearby townships ask us to adopt them as their police department, we see that as the sincerest form of flattery. While many small towns are losing their police departments to state police or sheriff departments, Newaygo is growing. We now provide police services to outside townships that contract with us versus other departments.

We are in the beginning stages of going through the state accreditation process by the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Committee (MLEAC), and hope to undergo our accreditation audit in less than 12 months.

– Ofc. Mark Garnsey has 30 years of law enforcement experience. Garnsey holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saginaw Valley State University, and a master’s degree in general administration from the University of Maryland University College. Garnsey is the former chief and public safety director of the Capital Region international Airport in Lansing, MI, and he retired from the Grand Rapids Police Department as a sergeant after 20 years of service. Ofc. Garnsey is a certified forensic hypnotist, and was voted Officer of the Year in 1993 as a major case detective for the University of Maryland Police representing FOP Lodges #23 and #9, which encompassed over 2,000 eligible police officers.