Law enforcement officer calls it a career after 36 years serving Crawford County area residents
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A law enforcement officer known for finding resources for those in need and treating jail inmates with dignity is stepping away after 36 years in the field.
Capt. Randy Baerlocher, the jail administrator for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, served his last day on the job on Friday, March 22.
Baerlocher started his career as a police officer for the Gerrish Township Police Department in Roscommon County in 1983. He was then was hired by Crawford County Sheriff Harold “Bum” Hatfield in March of 1987 to serve as a sheriff’s deputy.
Baerlocher has served under four different sheriff’s during his tenure. He strived to help victims of crime, and he handled complicated investigations. He also helped people with broken down vehicles get back on the road as they were traveling through Crawford County for vacations.
“I genuinely like people and I like helping people,” he said.
Baerlocher worked two stints as a sergeant for the sheriff’s office, also serving as a range officer and field training officer to get new deputies acclimated to their jobs.
“I put a lot of time into them with just mentoring them along the way,” he said.
Baerlocher recalled handling a rash of larcenies back in 2005. In one burglary, a woman had jewelry stolen from the glove compartment from a vehicle parked in Grayling Township while she was attending a wedding in Traverse City. The case involved tracking down a number of tips, which led to local arrests and recovery of most of the items stolen. Through interviewing employees working for a traveling carnival, checking with pawn shops, and following leads, Baerlocher was able to return the jewelry to the woman when the carnival was in Gaylord for a county fair.
“It was a pretty involved case,” he said.
Baerlocher succeeded retired jail administrator Scott Feldhauser in 2009, when he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs said the jail administrator is one of the most important positions within the sheriff’s office.
Baerlocher agreed, pointing out the position entails overseeing bailiffs, court security, and jail staff. The jail administrator is third in command at the sheriff’s office, and steps in when needed to help the detective, sergeants, and deputies.
“I help when I have seen the need because I have a wealth of experience in investigations,” Baerlocher said.
Jail staff have to pay particular attention to the health care, food, and dietary needs of the inmates.
“You really got to be dedicated to what is going on,” Baerlocher said.
Baerlocher said that he encourages the jail staff to treat inmates with dignity even though they have made mistakes which landed them there.
“In a lot of cases, even somebody that has committed a serious crime still has a lot of good in them,” he said. “They need to be treated like human beings and afforded all of their rights. You have to develop a staff that has that same caring ability to be able to care for them so they comply, and get along and are just not bucking the system and being a real problem the whole time they’re here.”
The jail administrator strives to find ways to help inmates better themselves while they’re serving their time to benefit Crawford County in the future.
“It serves them no point if you don’t give them something while they’re sitting here looking at the walls,” Baerlocher said.
The jail maintains a library, with books which are annually donated by the Crawford County Library System.
General Education Development (GED) classes are also made available to eligible inmates.
“It’s a big step when they get out and maybe they can get a job and are less likely to reoffend,” Baerlocher said.
Alcoholics Anonymous volunteers host meetings in the jail to help inmates on their journey to recovery.
Cognitive behavior and coping skills are also made available to inmates.
A healthy relationship program is taught to female inmates and is offered by River House Shelter, Inc.
The jail is about to start a healthy parenting program through the Child Protection Council of Crawford/Roscommon County.
Forgotten Man Ministries was brought into the jail in 2014. Chaplains Wade and Carol Davis host weekly Bible studies along with church services held on Friday. They are also available for counseling sessions with inmates.
“To point out some of these religious needs, thoughts and ideas, the word of God really brings these people through,” Baerlocher said.
Baerlocher was promoted to the rank of captain in April 2015.
During his 36 years in law enforcement, Baerlocher took no sick days, never showed up late for work, and was never written up for discipline.
At an annual meeting held for Crawford County Sheriff’s Office employees, Baerlocher was recognized as the Deputy of the Year and Corrections Officer of the Year. Deputy Shawn Schnoor, the president of the Crawford County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, said Baerlocher is slated to receive a Loyalty Award from Police Officers Association of Michigan later this year.
Baerlocher, a South Branch Township resident, plans on working on projects around the house, and devoting time to family and friends, golfing, boating, hunting and fishing.
“This was a career – not just a job,” he said. “I’ve loved the work and I’m going to miss it.”
Sgt. Michael Gammicchia was promoted to serve as the next jail administrator, and has been working with Baerlocher since January.
“He’s on top of things,” Baerlocher said. “He’s taking lots of notes and he’s going to do a fine job.”