CULVER — Familiar faces in Culver’s Lake Patrol — most with lengthy careers in the service — will no longer patrol the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee or the roads around it following a vote by the Lake Maxinkuckee Association’s board of directors to keep the patrol in line with best practices and procedures for law and emergency enforcement.
The decision was the result of advice from several sources, says Jane Grund, executive director of the Association, which the board felt it had to address. Lake Patrol will retain all officers with formal police academy training, but followed advice that the lack of such training presented an issue for the Association as an organization.
Noting her own son’s involvement for some time in law enforcement in Miami County, Grund said, “You can’t be involved in any kind of security or safety patrol and carry weapons — and I want to stress that these (Lake Patrol officers) had permits and were current on everything — but you just can’t do that anymore unless you’re academy trained.”
Officers no longer serving in the Lake Patrol due to the decision include Steve Coleman, Chuck Dilts, Sally Ricciardi, and Rich Sytsma. Sytsma, however, will be retained at least a year at his current salary — plus some extra for a position as consultant — in his capacity as Control Officer, in which he handles scheduling of officers and other administrative duties.
Grund said academy-trained officer Bill Strong, who is also an officer with Culver’s municipal police force, has agreed to take on more hours of patrolling the lake in an interim capacity to continue the Patrol’s four alternating hours of nightly patrol “so the cottages or houses are still protected,” explained Grund.
Other academy-trained officers who will stay on with the Patrol include John Duhnowsky and Troy Ulch.
Grund’s unhappiness with the move likely echoes many Association members, though she notes “the board had to address the fact (that academy training has become necessary) regardless of the excellent record those officers had. They never had an accident or incident...I want to sing the praises of, and have accolades for, the officers and Rich (Sytsma).
“I’ve talked with each of these officers and thanked them for their great service and record,” she adds. “The officers who will no longer be able to work had an excellent record and their performance went above and beyond the call of duty.”
As recently as last year, Grund recalls, Dilts saved a life while on security patrol.
“A family was coming up from the lake and a little boy impaled his leg on a pipe...he would have bled to death if Chuck hadn’t gotten the call and come over.
“Unfortunately he’s one of the officers who’s not academy trained. This is our dilemma, but I respect the board’s decision; I don’t think we had any choice.”
The Lake Patrol, now in its 49th year, is entirely privately funded by the not-for-profit Lake Maxinkuckee Association, “just because property owners care about safety on the lake,” explains Grund. The patrol covers road and waterways out of the town of Culver’s police jurisdiction, and difficult for county officers to regularly patrol.