News Story

Sheriff Questions Racetrack's $800,000 State Police Subsidy

Other venues pay for the service; state taxpayers pick up NASCAR track's tab

Prominent officials, including the Oakland County sheriff, have expressed concerns about a provision in next year’s state budget subsidizing Michigan State Police traffic support at Michigan International Speedway.

In separate letters sent to House Appropriations Committee Chair Laura Cox, R-Livonia, obtained by Michigan Capitol Confidential, state Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville and Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard question state funds being used to provide what they call “free policing” of MIS events. Since 2008, Michigan has budgeted over $5 million to pay for state police patrols at the speedway.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this proposed MIS funding would serve a more cost-effective role as a grant to help supplement police resources already available in our communities to better keep the public safe,” said Chirkun.

While budget talks are ongoing in Lansing, the most recent version of the budget available would set aside $800,000 for the state police to provide traffic support for events at the racetrack in Brooklyn, which is about 20 miles south of Jackson. The track will host two NASCAR races this summer as well as a country music festival.

Chirkun questioned expenditures such as providing free police support for MIS events, while many local police departments across the state have been forced to make staff cuts and look to voters to pass millage increases. The state police’s general fund has increased by over $120 million in the last 10 years.

In his letter, Chirkun suggested MIS reimburse the state police for its costs of providing support at events. He also suggested that the $800,000 currently going toward MIS event support would be better directed toward local and county law enforcement agencies.

In the other letter obtained by Michigan Capitol Confidential, Bouchard expressed his disappointment about the state subsidy of speedway events.

Bouchard said that concert venues and festivals in Oakland County fully reimburse the county sheriff’s office for the security and traffic control it provides at events. The organizers of the Woodward Dream Cruise, a nonprofit event which Bouchard said brings a million people into the county, use their own funds to pay for support from law enforcement.

“This $800,000 budget line item should be eliminated and reallocated to meet so many other public law enforcement needs across the state,” Bouchard said.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw takes exception to the term “free policing” and said the state police doesn’t provide free services to anyone. He also said the state police didn’t request the funding to provide traffic support at MIS events, saying that is a legislative issue.

“If they didn’t put it in our budget, we wouldn’t provide the service unless MIS reimbursed us,” Shaw said.

The speedway is the only venue included in the state police budget, with other venues such as Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and Ford Field in Detroit reimbursing the department for its services, Shaw said.

MIS declined a request for comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.