On Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m., The Eastern Echo visited the Department of Public Safety to learn more about how they operate. Greeted by Nathaniel Stead, he acted as the tour guide for the night shift.
Lieutenant Stead has been working at Eastern for 15 years, starting as a patrol officer. He then moved positions to the crime unit, working on street crimes and high felony arrests. Afterward, he moved to the multi-jurisdictional agency to work with the State of Michigan’s task force until 2019. Since then, he has been promoted to operations lieutenant who oversees all uniformed patrol divisions.
“Police officers are stretched thin, right? You can't deal with a lot of the problems all individually, but together we can deal with a lot of problems. So that task force that I was on, it was it's nine police officers, Washtenaw County deputies, troopers, Pittsfield officers, Ann Arbor police officers, some federal officers from the ATF and DEA, all working collectively to primarily focus on drugs and narcotics and high crime in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County,” Lieutenant Stead said.
Steed first showed the Communications Center where all the calls and requests are received. Outside of phone calls, the center is responsible for monitoring over 1,000 cameras around campus. At all times, two dispatchers are monitoring the Comms Center during eight-hour shifts. Dispatchers Kyle Snyder and Tom Shackelford were running the Tuesday night shift.
Next to all the camera monitors was a recent addition of a screen dedicated to the new Zero Eyes gun detection. Though it has not officially started, Shackelford noted that the tests yielded great results.
“The biggest problem, at least from a communication standpoint for me, is you have got a caller that is going to relay information and they are in a heightened state. So you take that information and you try to relay it to officers. This is the worst thing they are [the caller] ever going to have to deal with in their life,” dispatcher Shackelford said. “And they [officers] try to take the description of a person that's a verbal description, and then find the person that matches. Versus Zero Eyes, you have a picture. So identification, which is usually the hardest part of any crime, is there.”
Following this, Lieutenant Steed showed more of the department, such as offices, a detective bureau, locker rooms, and a kitchen. Then moving to the lower floor, Lieutenant Stead introduced the equipment and tools used by DPS on day-to-day occasions or rare instances.
Some of this equipment includes shotguns, patrol rifles, flares, bikes, electric bikes, breathalyzers, AEDs, raincoats, riot gear evidence kits, and more. Lieutenant Stead said one of the issues that DPS currently faces is a lack of storage for their 22 officers.
He then demonstrated some of the processes an arrestee goes through. From filing their fingerprint on a new electronic scanner that uploads their fingerprints in their system. They would then take a mugshot in that same room. In addition, there was an additional room if the arrestee needed to be interviewed, but that typically is reserved for serious cases like drunk driving. Finally, if they needed to be held temporarily, they would be put in a holding cell.
Recently, the Ypsilanti police force has been dealing with low staffing and has been looking to DPS to help with occasional calls. Lieutenant Steed has said though it has been a challenge, everyone has pitched in to help serve the same community.
“There's no hiding that the Ypsilanti Police Departmet has had some staffing issues recently. We do help them out on occasion. You probably see during the ride along tonight, primarily Ypsilanti will send a police officer to handle the call and we'll be a backup unit,” Lieutenant Stead said. “That's kind of just a mutual agreement that we have come to. The Ypsilanti community, the Eastern community, we are kind of all one. So Ypsi problems are kind of our problems. Our problems are kind of Ypsi problems. And we've got a really good working relationship with them. We're trying to get them through their hard time right now until they get their staffing levels back up.”
After finishing the tour around 8 p.m., Lieutenant Stead introduced me to officer Timothy Siecinski who would take me for a ride during his patrol. At the end, Steed wanted students and faculty to know that DPS was dedicated to the Eastern community.
“I just want you to know that we are a specialized police department here. We do a lot of things that other police won't do, but we realize that because of what type of police department we are, what type of community we serve, we need to tweak our roles as police officers to handle the needs, the needs of our community,” Lieutenant Stead said.