Clare County Review & Marion Press News

Faces in the Crowd: Michigan State Police F/Lt. Travis House, Cadillac Post

Marion Press:  Would you tell us about your background where you were born, where you were raised, and your education? 
First Lieutenant Travis House:  I was born in Cadillac, raised in this area, went to Mesick Schools, and graduated from Mesick in 1995.  I attended Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) after becoming a cadet for the state police, which was right out of high school.   The cadet program with the state police allowed me to work at the Traverse City Post while attending college.  I obtained an associate degree at NMC while working and transferred to the Cadillac Post as a cadet until March 1998.
MP:  You were a cadet with the MSP for three years, which was from 1995 until 1998.  After being a cadet please explain the beginning of your career with the department.
 F/Lt. House:  I attended the 116th Trooper Recruit school and my first assignment was at the Reed City Post. I was at that post from 1998 till October 2011. At the beginning of 2010, I attended some training and became the Post Community Service Trooper.  I was later transferred to the Cadillac Post in October 2011 where I continued as a Post Community Service Trooper.   I was promoted to Sergeant effective April 1 of 2012, April Fools’ Day 2012.  I served in that position for about a year and I took a lateral transfer to the Detective Sergeant position and stayed at the same post.  I worked less than a year with a squad of troopers/platoon from the 7th District.  Det/Sgt. Jeff Herweyer retired, and that position was open in February 2013, which I filled.  I was there until the fall of 2017, at which time I took a temporary position at district headquarters as a recruiter.   
After serving the district as a recruiter, I was promoted to lieutenant and acted as the public information officer for the district for a year.  I was then promoted to the Houghton Lake Post and became the commander as a first lieutenant in July 2019.   I served at Houghton Lake Post. I have been here since.
MP:   When did you first become interested in the state police?
Ft/Lt. House:  When I first was a cadet in the cadet program in the MSP, I wanted to stay around home and be a local deputy.  However, the cadet program exposed me to what the state police was, and during my time working at Traverse City Post, my goal changed, and I decided I wanted to be a trooper.   Cadets who completed that cadet program were guaranteed a position in recruit school. 
MP:  When was your enlistment date? 
F/Lt. House:  March 22, 1998.
MP:  Please explain the results of the 2011 reorganization within the state police.
F/Lt. House:  When I was a trooper in Reed City in 2011 the department decided the best way to save some money during the budget crunch was to close some buildings, instead of laying off troopers.  We were given some options.  If an employee was at a post that was going to stay open, that employee could stay at that location.  In the case of the Reed City Post, it was being closed.  Mount Pleasant Post was taking over the Reed City area, so if an employee was at Mount Pleasant already, he/she could stay there.  However, if an employee worked at a post which was being closed, the employee could transfer to the post that was taking over the post area, in this case, Mount Pleasant.  Or the employee could transfer to another post.   In my case, I’d lived in the Cadillac area for a few years before the closing of the Reed City Post. I applied to come to Cadillac and had enough seniority to do so.  I was authorized to take a lateral transfer.   However, several people were in that situation that didn’t have enough time to transfer.   Some of those employees were transferred to posts long distances away.  I ended up in Cadillac, which worked out fine for me.  It was tough for people who worked at posts which closed. We all had a personal attachment to our post, and felt the post provided an important service to the community. In some cases, it became difficult to provide some of these areas with the same level of service. For some communities, they ended up with better service than they had before.  Others with maybe not be as good but overall, we adapted.
MP:   What are your feelings as far as the way things were reorganized; good, bad, or indifferent?
F/Lt. House:
I don’t have any strong feelings about it.  The leadership at the time did what they had to do to save jobs and to continue to provide service to the citizens.
MP:  What counties do you cover out of the Cadillac Post? 
F/Lt. House:   Currently as of January 1, 2023, we split off from the Traverse City Post and they took Benzie Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties, and we now have Wexford, Manistee, and Missaukee.
MP:  Each of the posts now closes at 4 pm.  When did that start?
F/Lt. House:  I think the posts closed at 4 pm even when I began in 1998.  However, there was a Desk Sergeant always assigned at the post, at least from seven or eight in the morning until midnight.   So, even through the afternoon shift, there was a desk sergeant at the post.
MP:  Has there been any kickback from the community on the doors being locked at 4:00 in the afternoon? 
F/Lt. House:  No, not that I›m aware of.  We still maintain the call box out front so people can get a trooper to come meet them if they want.  The call box will be answered by the post in Gaylord, which is the Regional Communication Center.   
Every post call box goes directly to the regional center and the center can dispatch any car in the district.
MP: If a citizen calls 911 that call goes to your local dispatch center.  How many centers do you have within your post area? 
F/Lt. House:  The Cadillac Post has three dispatch centers.  Wexford has one, Manistee has one, and Missaukee has one.
MP:  With the central dispatch answering all the 911 calls and dispatching troopers, has there been a disconnect with the public at any point concerning contact with the MSP?  In the past, citizens could come to the post and talk with a trooper or sergeant 24 hours a day.  Now, that is not possible because the doors are closed and locked at 4:00 pm. 
F/Lt. House:   If it›s a non-emergency call, they can still technically contact us through the dispatch center.   Most of the centers operate on the closest car concept so they’re going to get the closest police officer that has jurisdiction for the call. 
MP:  Now that the doors close at 4 o›clock no one is manning the desk 24 hours a day seven days a week, has there been a reduction in sergeants? 
F/Lt. House: When this arrangement was made by shutting and locking the doors at 4 pm, Yes, there probably was a reduction in sergeants.  However, now there are additional work units that we didn’t have back years ago, such as the fugitive team for the district, which has a sergeant. We have the Emergency Services Teams (ES) assigned to each district that have sergeants. The Professional Development Bureau has several that work on professional development for people already in the field and for new hires.   There are several sergeants in that unit. 
Now the troopers have take-home cars and can respond to calls and emergencies from home instead of having to go to the post to pick up a car.  This saves a lot of time.  Along with that, post sergeants are now squad leaders and are on the road with the troopers responding to calls.  
MP:  Currently what is the biggest challenge that you deal with as a post-commander:
F/Lt. House: It’s morale, is trying to keep everybody feeling good about what they are doing and striving to maintain things in a positive atmosphere and away from the negative.  We had a difficult time during the 2019-2020 period because of the COVID issue.  There are still some of those negative thoughts lingering.   From my experience in leadership, you get the best product if you have happy people and so that’s a challenge. 
MP:  What is the greatest satisfaction for you as post commander? 
F/Lt. House:   The greatest satisfaction for me is seeing the people that I serve with, being successful and finding success in their career; being promoted, finding things that they love to do, and being very good at those things.  If I can be a little part of helping prepare them for the next steps in their career and helping them get into the place they want and where they want to be, that is rewarding!!
MP:  When I was the Chief of Police in Kentucky, I saw the benefit of having take-home cars and convinced my city to create a policy to do that, which they embraced.  There have been studies done by police departments concerning cost savings and efficiency.  One such study was conducted by the Indianapolis Police Department.   When an officer is assigned his/her own car, better care is taken to keep it in good running order, which in the long term saves money.  By having their own assigned patrol car, it was a morale boost for the officers.  We looked at it as a win-win situation for both the department and the individual officers.  And it is of financial benefit to the officers, and it saves the department money.   Before having take-home cars, the officers came to the station and took whatever car was available. My question to you is, what benefit have you found by having take-home vehicles?
F/Lt. House:  If something terrible happens we get on the phone and people are coming right from your houses and they›re ready to go.  They have all their equipment in their cars and at their home.  I remember when Trooper Paul Butterfield was killed in 2013, we had many troopers respond immediately, and they were troopers who lived in the area.  It was very advantageous for us to be able to get the troopers on site right away. Another big advantage is that when a trooper goes on duty, he/she walks out of their house.
MP:  What is the biggest disadvantage of having take-home patrol cars? 
F/Lt. House:  The biggest disadvantage is that we might have a county where none of the troopers want to live.  Another disadvantage is that there are a lot of moving parts in getting cars maintained.   We›re getting new technologies in cars such as the new MDCs (Mobile Data Computers), and some car technologies are being upgraded, so all that must be planned out well to get them back to the post. 
MP:  When troopers meet at the beginning and end of their shifts, they get to know one another more easily than when leaving for work from their homes.  There is a certain camaraderie that builds when there is more interaction between them.  How do you compensate for the troopers not meeting more? 
F/Lt: House:  We rely our squad leaders to have more squad meetings, which could include meals/snacks, etc.  We encourage that face-to-face contact to build that camaraderie within the squad. 
MP:   When the troopers meet at the beginning and end of their shifts, information is passed between the troopers concerning previous events or people to look for.  When the troops are not meeting together, how is the information given to the troopers coming in on a new shift? 
F/Lt. House:  For establishing and building camaraderie, you can’t replace face-to-face interaction.  We have one good thing going for us now and that is technology.  Information is easily passed on between the troopers with the aid of our computers and phones. 
It has become incumbent on the post to plan events.   We hold a summer picnic for the post. We make sure we have a good Christmas party for the post.  We hosted the retiree breakfast this year.   We have an “Adopt a Highway” trash pick where we come together on the highway and pick up trash.
 We encourage these little things where the troopers and sergeants get together and just do something other than police work.   It’s a challenge because everybody’s got families, and everybody’s got their own thing going on personally.   It’s difficult to have everybody in one place at one time, but I do my best to have the full post-meetings 2 or 3 times a year just to get everyone together.  There is always department information and business to present and talk about, but this adds to the getting together, and enhances the camaraderie. 
MP:  When I was a trooper and detective sergeant with the state police, we took great pride in maintaining respect and a positive relationship with the public.   It was always a source of pride.   I›m sure it›s the same today.   Would you commit to that? 
F/Lt. House:   That attitude still stands today!  I think we like to think that›s what makes us who we are.  The epitome of a trooper is a person who can be in an all-out fight with an individual one second, and win that fight, get somebody who committed the crime into custody, then when that fight is done it’s done. They brush themselves off, put them in a patrol car, and take them to where they need to be.   Secondarily, I think we’ve grown on the positive interaction side, where we put a lot of time and effort into going to community functions and being part of our community. 
MP:   What do you do as the Cadillac Post Commander to interact with the public?  I have on good authority that a few years ago you were featured as the guest speaker at Mesick’s High School Graduation.
F/Lt. House:  I have more opportunities than I can take advantage of.  The easy ones are work related such as being on the 911 board.   
We do things with the other law-enforcement agencies but as a post commander I feel it’s important that I take time to do things like the “Adopt Highway” with the troops. And I’ll do Project Christmas where we shop with a Hero, or if there’s something in a school that I can jump on…those opportunities. We are collaborating with the career tech center to build Halligan tools (Halligan Tools: fire and law enforcement dual axe rescue tools) for our patrol cars.   They will build us for just the material cost.   Hopefully, it will be a great project for them and will enhance our ability to respond to emergencies. I encourage all our troopers to be doing community service.   We have a community service trooper who works at this type of thing full-time, but I encourage all our troopers to find something that they can be involved in off duty such volunteering to be a coach for the kids.  I have been on the booster board. 
 I have a strategic plan as the post commander and the retirees from our department is a part of that plan.  Going to breakfast with the retirees is part of that plan.  I think I mentioned, we put on a retiree’s breakfast here at the post for our retirees this year.   Not only is it important to our retirees, but it shows the young troopers that we value those who have gone before us.    
Our retirees should continue to feel part of the team even after they retire. 
MP:  What›s the current breakdown of the personnel here at the post?  We have two Detective Sergeants.  We were able to keep the second one because we have the Oaks Prison in our area.  We currently have one post commander, 4 sergeants, and 23 troopers.  We hope to receive one more sergeant, which will bring us to 5.  I am hoping to get additional troopers, which would be helpful in covering three counties.
MP:  How do you recruit new applicants?  I know that’s a bombshell question because it’s such a difficult undertaking. 
F/Lt. House:  I have a little bit of a heads up having done it full-time for a year.  I tell my troopers we’re all recruiters.   We have some people assigned to recruiting as part of their job.   Throughout the whole state, we use applicant preparation sessions.  This involves a lot of physical training to get a person ready for recruit school.   These sessions also provide transparency so a person will know what’s going to be coming in recruit school. If a person determines attending recruit school is not for them, they don’t waste their time and the position in school. The number one recruiting tool we have is the troopers on the road displaying a positive attitude when they talk to people.   There are fewer people interested in being in law enforcement today and it is tough to recruit, but when the troopers are talking about how much they love where they work, I think that makes a huge difference in drawing young people to the state police.
MP:  What are some of the specialties within the department that would be of interest to both those interested in joining the state police and the public just being interested?
F/Lt. House:   There are several. We have a bomb squad, an aviation unit, which includes helicopters, planes, and drones.  We have specialists in forensic laboratories, and we have personnel assigned to emergency services teams (Think SWAT), fugitive teams, several multi-jurisdictional task forces, advanced traffic accident investigation personnel, evident techs that process crime scenes, a Canine program, a Marine Service (dive) Team and we have an entire division dedicated to Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
MP:  What are the advantages are there in using cameras in solving crimes? 
F/Lt. House:   We have had positive experiences with cameras helping us to solve crimes.  The amount of cameras owned and installed by the general public is constantly growing.   Even if they don’t catch a crime or commission of a crime, there’s usually something in the area they can help a trooper or detective develop a suspect.  Yes, cameras are very helpful but finding and accessing them creates a whole layer or several layers of work.   However, they certainly make a crime much more solvable.  Cell phones are also key to helping us solve crimes.  Everybody has a cell phone these days, most people have smartphones. 
MP:  What about troopers wearing cameras, has that been a benefit for you?
 F/LT. House:   It is an advantage.  However, there is an uncomfortable feeling about always being on camera.  Troopers don’t have the camera on all the time, just during public interactions. But when everything you do is on camera and open to “Monday morning quarterbacking” or critique for people who might not have a clue what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s some difficulty with that.   However, the cameras are helpful both in the collection of evidence the ability to go back and review every interview that was done for the day. We can go back and see and hear what that person said exactly, which is a great benefit.   If a person was involved in an incident where they’re obstructing one of my troopers and are trying to flee, the video is extremely useful direct evidence as to what occurred.   The videos are also useful in dealing with citizens complaints. We can go back and review the trooper’s interaction and make corrections, if needed. Generally, however, the video is helpful for the troopers. Time after time the video shows that the troopers acted the way that a trooper was supposed to act. Often there’s an exaggeration or a misunderstanding regarding the law and proper police procedure.   The video gives us the ability to go back and see exactly what was said and the actions that occurred. 
MP:  The Michigan State Police test patrol cars. Do you have any personal experience about how they do that? 
F/Lt. House:   We do vehicle testing that is used for the Nationwide Standard.  We still do the testing of patrol cars every few years.   The MSP drive track personnel publish an in-depth document at the conclusion of the testing. I have not seen a drive track that even comes close to ours.  The testing performed is done scientifically and saves many other departments in the United States from having to do their testing.  The track is at our state police academy in Diamondale. 
 MP: Is there anything that you would like to say that I have not asked you? 
F/Lt. House: One thing worth mentioning is the troopers at the Cadillac Post have a great appreciation for the public in our area.   We know that there are places in our country that are dealing with adversity surrounding law enforcement.   We feel blessed to have a community, which to supports us very well. 
 F/Lt. Travis House is married.  Together, he and his wife have three children.  They live in the Cadillac Post Area.
I contacted some road troopers who work for Lt. House and learned from them that they have a great deal of respect for the Lieutenant. They feel he is committed to doing a good job at his duties and responsibilities as the post commander all the while supporting those who work for him. His attitude and expectation are for his personnel to do their work and to do it well. They feel that he is supportive and stands by them while they are preforming their duties and responsibilities of enforcing the laws.
Retired Inspector Frank Keck (R/I Keck) recently retired and was F/Lt. Travis House’s immediate supervisor when he was active in the 7th District Headquarters. R/I. Keck supervised 5 posts within the 7th District, which included the Cadillac Post. R/I Keck has known Lt. House since he was a cadet in the state police. He has a long-term knowledge and familiarity with Lt. House and has been able to observe his work and personal life from a close distance. Lt. House is continually improving himself and always going the extra mile. He volunteers and is active in the community. R/I Keck said Lt. House was instrumental in planning the re-activation of the Traverse City Post, which had been closed since 2011. Then he was part of the planning the realignment of counties to the other posts in the 7th District.
After interviewing F/Lt. Travis House and talking with those working for him, to his immediate supervisor and knowing him myself, I can say to those folks living in the counties he has charge of, you are fortunate to have a dedicated, compassionate, caring and upstanding man in charge of your post.

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