law enforcement

Police can still seize assets without criminal charge

Oct 12, 2015
Michigan State Police

Police can make a lot of money off crime and criminals. Law enforcement might seize a drug dealer’s house, cars or cash through a process called civil forfeiture.

But sometimes police take things from people in Michigan without even charging them with a crime.

Bills that have moved through the state Capitol will make it easier for these people to get their assets back from law enforcement. But the legislation stops short of eliminating civil forfeiture entirely, which some groups in Michigan advocate.

Rick Pluta, Capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, says the origins of civil forfeiture go back to the War on Drugs:


We’ve reviewed the movements pushing for marijuana legalization in Michigan, we’ve taken a look at how legal pot has treated Colorado, and we’ve heard the viewpoint of a medical marijuana caregiver in Ann Arbor.

Today, we get the law enforcement perspective.

A Traverse City police captain has rejected a plea bargain. Captain Mike Ayling is charged with neglecting his duty during an investigation of a former city manager.

According to court documents, Grand Traverse County prosecutors offered to lower Ayling’s charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. But Ayling refused, choosing instead to proceed to trial.

An investigation of the Traverse City Police Department is nearing completion.

Officers did not arrest then-City Manger Jered Ottenwess after responding to a 911 call at his home February 16th. Ottenwess later pleaded “no contest” to charges of domestic violence and attempting to resist police.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney says two lieutenants from the sheriff’s department are conducting the investigation.

“And I expect to get a report fairly soon … possibly within the next couple of days (or) maybe a week at the outside,” said Cooney.

The Michigan State Police is showing off its brand-new drone.

At a special demonstration in south Lansing, dozens of news cameras followed the small drone as it flew through the sky, the drone’s whirling blades making less noise than a mosquito. Lt. Patrick Lawrence says that's by design.

The bill, if passed, would require cell phone carriers in Michigan to release location information to police in the event of an emergency.

In short, according to this House Fiscal Agency analysis, the bill does this:

Linda Stephan

The Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) is looking for more money from local governments to replace funding shortfalls.

Eight counties in northern Michigan, along with Traverse City, fund the drug taskforce. But TNT also gets money from federal grants and drug forfeitures.

Missaukee County sheriff Jim Bosscher says those sources are drying up.

A judge says there’s no clear evidence Baby Kate was murdered when she went missing three years ago. The Ludington Daily News reports a murder charge against the baby’s father has been dismissed.

Sean Phillips is in prison and will remain there. He’s already been convicted in the case of his daughter’s disappearance. The charge was “unlawful imprisonment.”

Linda Stephan

A plan to boost funding for drug enforcement in Benzie County could face problems if voters approve it.

Questions have emerged over the language used in the ballot proposal.

Linda Stephan

Benzie County will ask voters to boost funding for drug enforcement this November. Officials in the cash-strapped county have created a millage proposal that would allow a sheriff’s deputy to join the region’s drug task force, called the Traverse Narcotics Team.

Some records about gun owners in Michigan would be shielded from the public under a bill that passed the state Senate Thursday. The bills had overwhelming bipartisan support. Only two state senators voted against the package.

If passed, the measure would change who can access information, like a person’s name and address, from pistol license applications and a database that tracks pistol histories.

Republican State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, introduced the bill to protect what he calls gun owners’ “fundamental right" to privacy.

“When it comes time for releasing information on gun ownership, we just believe that that deserves a different level of protection and it shouldn’t be public information,” Pavlov said.

The public and the press would lose that access, but police would not.

“If there’s suspicion of a crime that a gun was used in, those are all ways that you can access the system. So law enforcement, certainly they need it for law enforcement purposes. It’s not something that needs to be public information on the streets,” Pavlov said.

The bill comes in response to a New York state newspaper that published information about registered gun owners there. He wanted to prevent it from happening in Michigan.

The bill now heads to the state House.

A bipartisan bill in the state Senate would speed up the testing of rape kits.

It proposes a set of deadlines for law enforcement agencies to pick up rape kits from medical facilities and have them tested at crime labs. The time limit from pickup  to completion of the lab analysis would be four months.

The bill is in response to the discovery in 2009 of about 11,000 untested rape kits in a Detroit police storage unit. The kits went back 25 years.

Kym Worthy, the Wayne County prosecutor, collaborated on the bill. 

Sarah Esper

Recent deaths in Benzie County from drug overdoses have left the community stunned.

The sheriff has been trying to track down the sources of those drugs. A suspect was arraigned just this week on charges related to an overdose back in February. But the drug community is notoriously tight-lipped and getting at the biggest pushers is a real challenge for law enforcement – especially under the tight budget constraints of Benzie County.

Even In Beulah


E-Magazine Art/Flickr

People with unused and expired medications can get rid of them through police and sheriff’s departments across the state Saturday. It’s an effort to rid medicine cabinets of expired and unwanted medications that are at risk of being abused or stolen.

Enforcement officials across northern Michigan say drugs are a growing problem, especially prescription opiates and the related street drug heroin.

Community Fights Back After Overdose Deaths

Apr 14, 2014
Linda Stephan

The use of heroin and other drugs is on the rise across northern Michigan, but the effects are being felt particularly in the small, tight knit communities of Benzie County.

Toxicology reports are not back for the two latest victims. But if their deaths are confirmed overdoses the count will rise to six deaths in two years. And some in the community are looking for anything they can do to ward off the next.

Drugs Testing Kits At The Funeral Home

It’s not just the police who have noted a rise in heroin and other drug-related deaths in Benzie County.

“You’re taking care of a lot your friend’s kids now,” says Funeral Director Gaylord Jowett. Some of those funerals have taken place at the Jowett Family Funeral Home in Benzonia.


Two more deaths in Benzie County are suspected drug overdoses.

The Benzie County Sheriff’s Department says officials believe a 22-year-old man likely died from an overdose Wednesday. They are also waiting on toxicology reports from the death of a 42-year-old man last week Wednesday, March 19th.

Already the county of 18,000 people has seen four overdose deaths confirmed in the last year and a half. County deputies have begun carrying a drug that can save the lives of overdose victims, if administered quickly. 

Deputies in Benzie County might be the first officers in Michigan to carry a potentially life-saving drug for overdose victims.


Crowded Jail Forces Wexford County To Act

Feb 21, 2014

Wexford County is looking at building a larger jail for at least $12 million, and Commissioners say it is the top priority this year.

The county boards its overflow prisoners in neighboring counties, and the number of inmates is expected to rise gradually in coming years.

Jail Lobby Closes To Homeless

Dec 11, 2013

Disorderly and drunk homeless people in Grand Traverse County are no longer welcomed to warm overnight in the lobby of the county jail. Leaders at the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department say the service, often used by people who have been kicked out of area homeless shelters, is a disruption.

Undersheriff Nathan Alger says jail is not the right place for the homeless.

Jury Clears Grand Traverse County Deputy

Nov 2, 2013

This week a federal jury in Kalamazoo took little more than two hours to determine there was “no cause of action” against Grand Traverse County Deputy Charlie Jetter. Their conclusion comes after years of civil litigation stemming from the death of an Interlochen man in 2007.

Craig Carlson, 49, died by a single bullet after an all-night standoff at his home. Carlson was suicidal and heavily armed.

Jetter, a sharpshooter, fired the fatal shot after he said Carlson shouldered his weapon and aimed at other officers on the scene.

A Grand Traverse County deputy testified in federal court he had no choice but to shoot Craig Carlson after a stand off at the man’s Interlochen home in 2007. Wednesday’s testimony was the first time Charlie Jetter has spoken publically about the shot he fired, ending an 11-hour barricade.

Arriving On Scene
Deputy Charlie Jetter lived close to Craig Carlson’s home in Interlochen. He was one of the earlier officers to arrive on the scene as part of a regional SWAT team.

Jury Could Hear Carlson Shooting Case

Jan 6, 2011

A federal judge has ruled in favor of former Grand Traverse County sheriff Scott Fewins in a wrongful death lawsuit that goes back to a 2007 police scene.

But it remains a question whether a deputy and sharp-shooter used excessive force when he killed Craig Carlson. That may go to trial this fall.

Craig Carlson died by a single bullet, after an all-night standoff with police at his home in Interlochen. He was 49. Three years after his death, and it's the final moments of his life that remain a mystery.

Former GT County Sheriff Dismissed From Lawsuit

Jan 5, 2011

A civil lawsuit against Grand Traverse County and former Sheriff Scott Fewins has been dismissed by a federal judge.  But the sniper who shot Craig Carlson in November 2007 could still end up before a jury. Deputy Charles Jetter is accused by Carlson's family of using excessive force.

Carlson Case Continues Toward Trial

May 13, 2010

A lawsuit over the death of an Interlochen man who died by police sniper back in 2007 continues toward trial in federal District Court. A possible settlement has been rejected, and sealed.

Craig Carlson died after an all-night standoff with police at his home. His family has sued Grand Traverse County, former Sheriff Scott Fewins, and others who were on the scene that night.

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