Small town, big responsibility: IPD works to keep city safe
By LISA BOWERS
Journal Ishpeming Bureau
ISHPEMING — Small town police departments often do more with less.
In fact, a police officer in a city like Ishpeming has to maintain the same professional standards as their big city peers while dealing with the same kinds of crime.
The Ishpeming Police Department has 10 full-time police officers including the police chief and one detective to cover 6,500 residents, whom they are charged with protecting 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Chief Steven Snowaert was hired on Feb. 27, almost three months after his predecessor Dan Willey transitioned to his new position as Marquette County undersheriff on Dec. 12.
It was during that time when IPD Detective Chad Radabaugh, who has worked for the department for eight years, stepped in to fill the void, according to City Manager Mark Slown.
Slown said Radabaugh’s willingness to do what was necessary to keep the department running is typical of the kind of police force Ishpeming has.
“This is the kind of people we have working at the city — people who are willing to go above and beyond and they really care about the community,” Slown said.
Radabaugh said when Chief Willey left, the department was down two bodies because the 10th officer was not hired until the middle of January, in addition, the clerk was gone for a month during that period.
“There were four or five positions I was doing daily. So we did not have to force overtime or anything like that, I just picked up all the slack,” Radabaugh said. “Basically I did the chief’s position, my detective’s position, and I covered the road during day shift when there was no one else.”
Slown said he believes Radabaugh was often working 18 hour days during that time.
“He did double duty, he did,” Slown said. “To his credit, he is a terrific example of an extremely talented and an extremely dedicated public servant.”
Despite the demands on his time, Radabaugh said working for a small town police department offers benefits that working for a big city department might not provide.
“In a department like this a lot of times you get to see your cases from beginning to end,” Radabaugh said. “We get to see them basically from the beginning of a case sometimes to prosecution, whereas in a bigger city, you don’t have that.”
There is an increased level of community involvement in a smaller department that officers in larger urban areas might not be able to achieve, Radabaugh said.
“You get to work with more of the community one-on-one with a smaller department,” Radabaugh said. “Whereas a bigger city, there is so many people that sometimes you can jump around, you don’t get that connection with some of the citizens that we get in the smaller places.”
A police officer in a small town meets the same requirements as a big city officer. Radabaugh himself went to two different police academies, graduating with a master’s degree in criminal justice from Ferris State University.
Radabaugh said being a member of the police force means improving skills and techniques whenever possible.
“Any training I can go to, I pretty much go to,” Radabaugh said.
Departments across Marquette County work together in a variety of ways, one of which is training, Radabaugh said, which cuts down on travel costs.
“That is another good thing about the small town departments,” Radabaugh said. “A lot of our training is based out of Northern (Michigan University). It’s called consortium training. All the departments pay a yearly fee, but they bring trainers up so a lot of the departments in Marquette County just go to Northern. They bring special trainers up for us, so we don’t have to travel … all the time downstate.”
In a rural area, cooperation across agencies is key — especially when it comes to responding to an incident or investigating a crime.
“It’s extremely important for us — for small departments to have interagency cooperation with other departments,” Radabaugh said. “Here at our department you may be the only one working in the entire city. But to have backups, or call in for help from Negaunee, or the state or the county is huge. We would not be able to operate up here if not for that. It just would not be safe for anyone.”
Radabaugh said despite the fact that drug-related crime makes the news most often, recently the most prevalent IPD cases have had to do with assault, larceny, bank and check fraud.
“I mean obviously we have a good portion of drug cases,” Radabaugh said. “There’s a lot of other things that can go on besides that. Right now my No. 1 seems to be assault-type cases.”
Slown said no matter what the crime, community-based policing has been central to the philosophy of IPD.
“The officers have a mentality of being in touch with the people within the community and see themselves as all part of the same community,” Slown said. “Not separated by perceptual boundaries of ‘us vs. them’ type of thing that, unfortunately, is prevalent in some places.”
Radabaugh said community involvement is key to the success of any police department, but especially in a small town.
“I think with us, it’s just the community doing what they do,” Radabaugh said. “Because as a small department we can’t be able to watch certain houses or watch areas because we may get 12 to 13 calls in a shift. That means we can’t necessarily sit and watch certain areas of the city.”
Radabaugh said if citizens see activity that concerns them, they should not hesitate to call.
“It’s great for us if you call us if you see something,” Radabaugh said. “Where in bigger cities we have specialized units that can sit on certain areas — maybe watch their troubled areas. That’s the biggest thing for us, without the citizens, we aren’t going to be able to do it. We need their help.”
Radabaugh said not everything police do to keep citizens safe happens while officers are in the public eye.
“We’ve got a lot of active patrols to do all of that. Obviously I don’t think that they necessarily see that all the time, and that’s no one’s fault,” Radabaugh said. “It’s just our goal is to keep everyone safe. We are a small department taking a lot of extra, I think, responsibilities than what a bigger department would do. The whole goal is to make Ishpeming safe for the people who live and want to come here. We need to work together.”
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.