Mount Clemens — Mount Clemens officials last April voted to contract out for police protection with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department, thereby eliminating the city’s 118-year old police force. The $2.1 million contract, which began July 1, is expected to save the city $600,000 the first fiscal year of the agreement and then $1 million annually thereafter.

According to a June 16 Detroit News article, the move did not sit well with the union that represents the city’s 26 police officers. The officers’ union sued the city to prevent the change, arguing that it is against the law. In what may be the first anti-privatization "poison pill" in American history, the Sheriff’s Act of 1846 actually prevents a replacement of city police with "sheriffs, unless the city maintains the highest level of staffing over the past 36 months," union attorney Douglas Guscher told The News.

Because current staffing is not at its high point, the sheriff would have to add officers to the payroll, thus increasing the actual cost of the contract. The term "poison pill" is often used to describe mechanisms for publicly-traded corporations to thwart hostile takeovers from outside parties. Mike Murray, a lawyer for the city, told Michigan Privatization Report that the union attempted to obtain an injunction preventing even a temporary takeover. The request was dismissed and the dispute between the parties may go to court.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has addressed both intergovernmental and private police contracting in the past. For more on these subjects see "State Police Can Patrol Highway for Less" at www.mackinac.org/5373 and "Privatizing the Long Arm of the Law" at www.mackinac.org/796.