Keeping Lowell Safe: Police Beat for February 2022

Lowell Police Department Hybrid vehicle

The City of Lowell didn’t see much crime in February, but officers did respond to one call of road rage among its other cases. Plus, a representative of the department headed to Lansing to testify about a pending bill, and a misdemeanor charge against another officer has prompted an internal investigation.

More on those topics below, but first, here’s a snapshot of department activity for February 2022. The Lowell Police Department logged 208 reports for the month and those included the following:

  • 35 assists to other agencies
  • 23 general and motorist assists
  • 18 suspicious situations
  • 11 traffic accidents
  • 4 disorderly conducts
  • 2 larcenies
  • 2 frauds
  • 1 non-aggravated assault
  • 1 driving under the influence
  • 1 juvenile runaway
  • 1 missing person

Lowell officers also made 104 traffic stops that resulted in 14 citations.

Road Rage Incident on M-21

Among the month’s cases, one that stood out was a road rage incident that occurred on M-21. Two vehicles were apparently jockeying for position on eastbound M-21 in Ada, at the section of road where Fulton narrows from two lanes to one. A vehicle apparently was forced onto the shoulder while the cars were merging.

One vehicle then tailgated the other vehicle to Lowell and followed it until it pulled into the owner’s driveway in the city. The drivers confronted one another, and a physical altercation took place. When an officer arrived, they discovered both parties had sustained minor injuries. A report was taken, but it appears neither driver wants to press charges.

Det. Gordy Lauren Testifies in Lansing

Det. Gordy Lauren (l) and Representative Thomas Albert at the Lansing hearing. Photo courtesy of Lowell Police Department

Det. Gordy Lauren recently traveled to Lansing to testify in front of the House Committee on Judiciary regarding House Bill 5665. The bill was introduced by Representative Thomas Albert of Lowell in response to concerns about the limited use of revenue from salvage vehicle inspection fees.

Salvage inspections occur after repairs have been made to a vehicle that was previously deemed a total loss by an insurer. The inspection ensures major components such as the windshield, body panels and seatbelts have been replaced.

Lauren conducts approximately 2-5 inspections per week with each bringing in a $100 fee. That money pays for his time plus that of an officer, if needed, to cover his patrol duties while he is conducting the inspection. Any excess gets placed in a salvage fund.

The law currently only allows salvage inspection fee revenue to be used for inspector expenses or for crimes related to stolen vehicles. In a small community like Lowell, there are not many stolen vehicles and there is only so much that can be spent to support the work of the inspector.

HB 5665 will amend the law to allow police departments to use salvage funds for other equipment as well. “That opens it up for us to buy more body cameras or put it into our uniform fund or buy computers or other equipment,” Lauren says.

After the hearing, the chair of Judiciary Committee called Lauren to discuss the matter further, and Lauren suggested allowing the fund to pay for training as well. “We have a very tight budget for training,” he notes.

Overall, Lauren felt positive about the hearing and his subsequent conversations with lawmakers. The bill is currently awaiting further action in the House Committee on Judiciary.

Hearing Scheduled for Sgt. Scot VanSolkema

Last month, Sgt. Scot VanSolkema was charged with misdemeanor trespassing for entering a Forest Hills Public Schools building without permission. He was also given a civil infraction for careless driving when he drove on a curb to bypass a school pick-up line. In both instances, VanSolkema was off-duty and out of uniform. A hearing has been scheduled in the 63rd District Court for March 18 on the charges.

Lowell Police Chief Chris Hurst says VanSolkema has been on leave while the department completes an internal investigation. That investigation is separate from the court case and examines VanSolkema’s actions in light of the department’s code of conduct, which addresses expectations for officer behavior both on and off duty.

Hurst says a hearing will be held mid-month regarding the internal investigation, and depending on the outcome, consequences could include anything from a temporary change of duty to termination of employment. That decision will ultimately lie with Hurst.

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