Cop’s Drunken Driving Crackdown Wins Support
LAKE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ Townspeople in this lake-dotted resort turned out Monday night to support their lone lawman who has waged a one-man crackdown on drunken driving.
Officer Patrick Bunce, who agreed to resign June 1 in the wake of complaints from residents that he was hurting the local economy, now says he’s reconsidering.
″I have every intention of resigning,″ Bunce said. ″However, you can rest assured that if the powers that be in Lake City ask me to come back I will take the job back.″
Bunce has agreed to resign in exchange for a wage settlement that would continue to pay him his $15,600 annual salary for up to one year or until he found a new job. The deal also would include a lump-sum settlement of $4,400, plus cover the difference for one year if his new job paid less than the present job.
About 60 people showed up to support him at Monday night’s City Council meeting, Bunce said, including a group of women circulating a petition asking the council to keep him on the job. The council took no action on the request.
In a recent eight-month period, Bunce arrested 53 people for drunken driving and took home 79 who were considered borderline drunken drivers, according to police records.
Bunce said he’s being punished for doing his job too well. But others say Bunce is abusive and overzealous in his enforcement of the law, waiting for people to commit petty infractions and then treating them roughly afterward.
Bar owners say business has fallen considerably since Bunce, 39, began his crackdown, with some tavern owners cutting their hours as a result.
″He has a tendency to pull anybody over who leaves a bar,″ said Gerry Olmstead, whose husband, Glenn, owns the downtown Willard House tavern.
″But it isn’t just the bar owners who complain, or the drinkers. He has harassed so many people in this town,″ she said. ″He once pulled a man out of a funeral procession because there was a light missing on his car.″
Lake City Attorney Charles Parsons said there have been 27 complaints filed against Bunce, but Parsons said none were investigated and that there were no grounds for Bunce’s dismissal.
The officer was asked to accept the buyout because community divisiveness has made it difficult for the officer to do an effective job, Parsons said.
Bunce, hired as the city’s first police officer in December 1985, said he believes Lake City residents just aren’t used to law enforcement.
″When you have a town with 800 people and 13 liquor licenses, it would appear we have more liquor licenses per capita than any other town in Michigan,″ Bunce said. ″You have to make it clear that you can’t drive drunk.″
Bunce, who says he doesn’t drink, said bar owners are behind the drive to have him ousted. But Olmstead, who contended that Bunce manhandled her and other people during routine traffic stops, said his allegedly abusive behavior is the issue, not a drop in bar business.
One supporter, Councilman Greg Anderson, resigned in protest at the way Bunce was treated.
″It’s just that he didn’t get along with the people who run the bars,″ Anderson said. ″The reason we’re giving him this resignation settlement is because we’re at fault (for not supporting him). It’s a cop-out.″
″As long as you treat everyone fairly and everyone the same, there’s no reason to do anything differently,″ Bunce said.