How Do Michiganders View their Relationships with Law Enforcement as Local Police Forces Dwindle?

“You only cut cops as a last resort, and in Michigan, hundreds of cities have found themselves at that last resort.”

Jake Neher/WDET

“Call it the ‘Flint Syndrome,’ where systemic, long-term disinvestment has imperiled the safety and frayed the quality of life for residents of many Michigan cities.” — Bridge Magazine 

Over the past decades, cities in Michigan have disinvested in police like no other Midwestern state. Ann Arbor has reduced its police force by about a quarter, and Troy has nearly halved its police department.

That’s what Bridge Magazine reports as part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative’s work on The Intersection, a project that is comparing conditions in metro Detroit over several decades to see if life for residents has improved since the momentous summer of 1967.

Reporter Mike Wilkinson, who with Ron French co-authored the article “Flint Syndrome: Fewer cops, abandoned parks and why more cities will crumble unless Michigan changes,” tells Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today, “You only cut cops as a last resort, and in Michigan, hundreds of cities have found themselves at that last resort.”

According to Wilkinson, the drop in police officers is not just driven by falling populations. “It’s the structure with how we finance cities,” he says. He cited a Michigan State University study that found: “Some states incubate local financial stress by simultaneously driving up spending pressures on their cities while curtailing their capacity to raise critical revenue.”

As part of the conversation about police and community relations, Henderson also talks to Tom Ivacko, manager and administrator of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, which recently surveyed local leaders about their views on relationships between Michigan communities and law enforcement. About 85 percent of leaders who responded characterized the relationships as “good,” but Ivacko says leaders from “56 Michigan communities say citizens don’t trust police officers-and those are some of the biggest cities in Michigan.”

The work of all the Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners can be found online at

Click on the audio link above to hear the entire conversation.