This story was covered in a Free Press article last month – entitled “Royal Oak police cuts add to concerns over crowd control” – but it has disappeared into the archival abyss (way to get people to click on your links!), so I’ll have to go with the Daily Tribune version, headlined “Royal Oak chief: ‘We are reaching a breaking point if we haven’t yet.”
But the first two paragraphs are…um…bizarre, given the headline:
Were police on the verge of losing control downtown when 200 people surrounded officers arresting three men for disorderly conduct on May 22?
Not that night, says Interim Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue, who is overseeing a police force reduced by 30 percent because of spending cuts.
Headline: “Police Chief: Nick Cheolas murdered everybody at the bar on Saturday night.” First paragraph: “Did Nick Cheolas murder everybody at the bar on Saturday night?” Second paragraph: “No, says the police chief. But BUDGET CUTS!!!” Seems that headline was a little premature.
Believe it or not, the story gets weirder. The next three paragraphs explain how cutting five (5!!!) officers from the Royal Oak police force (from 70 to 65) stretches the force to some kind of “devastating” “breaking point.” Then a city councilman says bartenders should cut people off sooner. Then we get into a the incident that sparked this whole debate. Which is this:
Just before 2 a.m. May 22 bar patrons pouring out of Woody’s, O’Toole’s and Fifth Avenue interfered with police breaking up a fight between two men. They encircled the officers and began yelling.
Every Royal Oak officer on duty was called to Fifth Street just west of the railroad tracks. Michigan State Police troopers and a Pleasant Ridge officer also responded.
O’Donohue said the other law enforcement showed up on their own. He doesn’t know if Royal Oak would have called for backup.
“I can’t say we would have asked them. At one point Berkley offered to assist but we had things under control quickly,” O’Donohue said.
In about 15 minutes, police made three arrests and sent the crowd on their way.
So…some drunk people got into a fight, the police arrested them, and…nothing happened? More importantly, THIS is the story you chose to scare the public about “devastating” budget cuts? I mean…is there more? Is it coming later in the article? Did somebody get shanked? I want blood! This is not news. It is Saturday night in Royal Oak.
Should I read on? I should read on:
City Commissioner Jim Rasor called the police response “flawless” but other elected officials are concerned about what could have been.
“It was seconds away from total bedlam,” City Commissioner Michael Andrzejak said. “A police sergeant said as much.”
Just…I don’t…did the…what? Let me get this straight: The incident that we’re holding out there as the poster child for “devastating” budget cuts is an incident in which…absolutely nothing happened. But stuff could have happened if, you know, things happened differently. To continue our metaphorical Nick Cheolas story above:
Nick Cheolas consumed a couple drinks, took a cab home, took the dog out, and then went to bed. But City Commissioner Jim Rasor is concerned about what could have been had Nick Cheolas brought a machete to the bar and started hacking away indiscriminately at hipsters and yuppies alike.
“It was seconds away from total bedlam,” City Commissioner Michael Andrzejak said. “A guy who would really like more money and desperately needs to scare everybody into giving him that money said as much.”
Fox2 News saves the day with a real live balanced piece that includes police video of the scene. Highlights:
- Fox 2 news reporter says, “The City of Royal Oak just approved its budget Monday night. It includes no police layoffs, but no new hires, either. That's one reason why this incident has just sparked a spirited debate.”
- Royal Oak Police Chief says, “It certainly wasn’t a riot.”
- To which a city commissioner responds, "I think that we were less than 60 seconds from a riot.”
- Police dash cam footage of the incident. Which shows people standing there. Some of them have their arms folded, apparently in a menacing fashion. And while I’m probably not the most unbiased guy on earth, if you can see any sort of “violence” besides cops shoving random people, let me know.
- The following two lines reported (unironically) within 40 seconds of each other in a piece that uses a drunken downtown brawl to explain why police cuts will be “devastating":
- [The] department's been slashed more than 30-percent within the past few years and when you factor in upcoming retirements, increasing overtime just won't cut it.
- Crime in Royal Oak has actually dropped significantly over the past few years and most of it is actually petty crime concentrated in the neighborhoods, not downtown
I think cop facepalm is appropriate: