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08-22-2019 Police Reports

Police Reports By Annette Christie

Van Buren County Undersheriff selected

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office is announcing Kevin Conklin as the new Undersheriff. After reviewing and interviewing candidates, the entire command unit was in support of bringing in Mr. Conklin. He had a 24-year career with the Michigan State Police. He served as a Trooper, member of their Swat Team, Road Patrol Sergeant, and ended his career as a Detective Sergeant before taking the Undersheriff position. Conklin served four years in the Army as an MP and is currently the VFW Junior State Commander. He grew up in Decatur, and his heart has always been in Van Buren County.

Sheriff Abbot states that the first time he interviewed Conklin about the position he was very open about wanting to join the Van Buren County office for various reasons which were all positive. Conklin told the Sheriff, “I watched from an outside agency while you made many positive changes, built a strong command staff and hired top notch personnel, and I wanted to be a part of that. So when I was asked to be the Undersheriff, I didn’t hesitate to take that role. I’m excited about getting started and being able to contribute to the office.” Chad Hunt served as the previous Undersheriff but asked to step down and go to the Uniform Response Division for personal reasons. The Sheriff’s Office all respected the job Chad did and support his decision. They said family should always be a major part of an officer’s decision in their career.

Coloma woman sentenced to prison for drunk driving causing death A Coloma woman who was driving drunk and in excess of 100 mph on I-94 will face prison time for her role in the death of a Canadian woman. It was on September 9, 2018 in the early morning hours that Amber Garton, 33, was driving her Ford Mustang on eastbound I-94 when it struck a van, causing it to go airborne and roll over. Erum Nazir, 33 from Ontario, Canada was in the back of the van and was ejected due to the crash. Garton failed a field sobriety test, having a blood alcohol level of 0.190, more than twice the legal limit. While Garton pleaded no contest to operating while intoxicated causing death, she had a prior drunk driving conviction in 2009 and other drug and alcohol offenses as an adult. Berrien County Trial Court Judge sentenced Garton to 4-15 years in prison. The family of Nazir did send a victim statement to the judge for consideration during the sentencing.

Coloma Township officers commended

Coloma Charter Township Police Chief Wes Smigielski recently told the township board that two of his officers have been applauded outside of township hall. Officer Ulleg assisted a truck that was broken down on the highway with a trailer attached to it. Ulleg saw that the family needed some extra assistance and on his own time, he transported the trailer and the family to lodging until they could get it fixed. Officer Riley had a camper and a truck that broke down. He assisted the passengers for approximately two hours. The owner of the vehicle said they had never received assistance from a police agency at the caliber in which they were treated. Both travelers contacted the Chief and wanted their stories told to compliment the officers that assisted them. For the month of July, the Coloma Township Police had 262 complaints investigated. There were 22 arrests made, of which 17 were misdemeanors. The department made 77 traffic stops and issued 18 citations. Between the city and the township there were 325 property/ business checks. Stay safe this Labor Day weekend During the 2019 Labor Day holiday weekend, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office will partner with the U.S Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to get impaired drivers off the roads and help save lives. The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”, runs from August 14-September 2, 2019. During this period, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and all law enforcement agencies will show zero tolerance for drunk and drugged driving. Increased state and national messages about the dangers of driving impaired, coupled with enforcement and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce impaired driving. “Labor Day should be a time for friends and family to come together and enjoy the last days of summer,” said Berrien County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Robert Boyce. “During this campaign we want to get the message out that drunk driving is illegal, and causes deaths on our roadways. Help us put an end to this senseless behavior so that everyone can enjoy the holiday,” Boyce added. The Labor Day holiday weekend is one of the deadliest times of the year in terms of drunken driving fatalities. In 2018, there were 12 traffic fatalities over the holiday weekend state-wide with six crashes involving alcohol. In Michigan, the percentage of alcohol related fatalities was approximately 11 times higher than fatalities in all crashes and the serious injury level was about six times higher. Drunk driving isn’t the only risk on the road. Drug-impaired driving is also an increasing problem on our roadways. In Michigan, the number of fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for cannabinoid drugs has nearly doubled since 2013. If drivers are impaired by any substance, alcohol or drugs, they should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle. During the Labor Day campaign, 93 police departments, Sheriff Offices, and Michigan State Police will put extra officers on the road to locate and arrest drunk and drugged drivers. The extra overtime is paid for with federal funds. In the State of Michigan there were 9,786 alcohol-involved crashes with 315 alcohol-involved fatalities in 2018. There were 2,636 drug-involved crashes and 247 drug-involved fatalities statewide in 2018. Michigan law considers persons with a BAC of .08 or greater to be driving drunk, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired. Michigan’s drunk driving laws contain a zero-tolerance provision for drivers with certain illegal drugs in their system. Prosecutors do not have to prove the driver was impaired, just that they were driving with those drugs in their system. The same penalties for drunk driving will apply to those convicted under the zero tolerance drug provisions. “Driving a vehicle while impaired is a dangerous crime,” Boyce said adding, “It is essential to plan for a sober ride home before you ever leave for the party. That’s why, during the Labor Day holiday, we will make zero exceptions for drunk and drugged driving. There are just no excuses,” Boyce said.


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