A Day in the Life of the Central Lake Police Chief
by Brad Glasgow
Editor’s note: some details have been changed to protect identity.
“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?” the song kept playing in my head. After one of our village council meetings I spoke with Central Lake Chief of Police Scott Barrett and told him of our plans to run a feature on local police, and that I’d like to do an interview. “You want to come on a ride along?” he asked. I had never considered that. It would be the perfect opportunity to get a first-hand look at what our local police go through on a day to day basis. And so on a beautiful mid-September day I headed down to the Chief’s offices with the theme to Cops stuck in my head.
Chief Scott Barrett, age 44, has been CentralLake’s Chief of Police since March of 2008. Describing himself as a type-A personality, he is always busy and always on the go, he talks quickly, and is very highly organized. He is also quick to smile and very friendly, and a lot of fun to talk with. Originally from Traverse City, he attended the NMC police academy and then went on to Spring Arbor, where he got his degree in Management Organizational Development. Not only is he a father of three, and working full-time as Central Lake’s police chief, he is also currently taking graduate courses with Davenport University further studying business.
And his is not a regular 9-5 full time job where you go in to the office on Monday and leave it on a Friday. His schedule constantly changes. “If everyone knew I was working certain hours, what would they do? They’d cause trouble then.” On one of his recent weekends he had 26 phone calls, not to mention personal visits from people needing to talk to him.
“The nice thing is you don’t know what you’re doing every day,” Chief Barrett tells me as he shows me the paperwork in his office. Recently the village council asked its employees to keep track of their hours for two weeks to see what they do with their time. Chief Barrett pulls out a large white binder and sets it on his desk. “That is something we’ve always done,” he says. “You want to know what I was doing on February 13 of last year?” He flips through and lands on the page for that day, which breaks down all his activities accurate to within 5 minutes. His job is highly structured and he documents everything.
We head out to a couple abandoned houses in town and place ordinance violation notices on their doors. Chief Barrett had to make seven calls before I arrived to discover who owned one of the houses. “I could [attend to ordinance violations] all day,” he tells me. But if he did, he would have no time for actual crimes.
He parks the car in one of the many hidden spots he uses to catch speeders. It’s a slow day and we don’t catch anyone speeding. “There is always going to be someone unhappy with what I do,” he explains. “If there is a complaint about speeders and we catch someone, the person complaining is going to be happy but guess what? The speeder won’t be.” There will always be 1-5% of the people who hate him just for being a cop, he says. He doesn’t mind. You can’t please everyone. He patrols around CentralLake and most people wave.
The day picks up and he gets a call from a local store which discovered some merchandise missing and had video of a shoplifter. Chief Barrett doesn’t know the shoplifter, but he gets a tip on somebody who may know her. He gets a picture from the video, but before he can go investigate he is flagged down by a motorist. She had hit a deer and while there was no damage to the car, she thought the deer may be suffering. We head out to look for it, and after an extensive search we couldn’t find it.
We proceed to the house of the person who may know the shoplifter. He hands him a picture and asks if he knows the woman. He offers her name right away and explains that she is from out of town and left Central Lake a couple days prior to appear in court in another town. Chief Barrett will now have to make phone calls and find out where she is. He’s optimistic he will find her because she’s currently in the court system and someone has to have her address.
We meet an officer from the Sheriff’s office halfway to Bellaire. They received subpoena papers that needed to be served and asked Chief Barrett if he knew her. That’s when I discovered our police chief’s odd talent. “Oh yeah, she drives a blue four-door Chevy,” he says. Chief Barrett knows nearly everyone in CentralLake by the car they drive or the house they live in. It’s an almost encyclopedic knowledge built up by serving Central Lake for over 5 years now.
As our day slows down again and nears its end, Chief Barrett noted that complaints are consistently up, and that they’re doing more work with fewer resources. “You have to prioritize things,” he explains. The village doesn’t have the money to pay for a 24 hour police force but Chief Barrett does get help from part time officers Josh Jones, Libby Laviolette, and Al Burnett. Of course residents can always get assistance from the sheriff’s office as well.
“Be patient,” says Chief Barrett, when I asked him if there’s anything he’d like to add. “We can’t be everywhere at the same time.” But he wants people to know that he is available. “If somebody has a question they can call me or e-mail me.” You can find his contact information on the village website. Thank you, Chief, for a great learning experience!