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Police body cam shines a light on commissioner’s arrest. 

Photo courtesy Officers from the Marine City Police Department arrested Commissioner Michael Hilferink charging him with assault and battery under domestic violence, at his home on the evening of Feb. 10, 2023.

Prosecutor drops charges; Hilferink behavior in question

By Barb Pert Templeton

When Marine City Commissioner Michael Hilferink, 38, was arrested at his home on Feb. 10 for assault and battery and domestic violence by officers from the Marine City Police Department he was certainly shocked. 

Later, stating that the incident was blown out of proportion and was simply a family matter, the commissioner felt vindicated when the St. Clair County Prosecutor declined to press charges and pursue the matter. The charges were classified as a misdemeanor. 

Despite that fact, the incident continues to come up during the public comments portion of the bi-monthly Marine City Commission meetings. It was discussed at the podium at that Feb. 16 meeting by former city mayor Cheryl Vercammen and again at the March 2 meeting by city leader Laura Merchant. 

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Photo courtesy of 
During a Marine City Commission meeting on Feb. 16, 2023 Michael Hilferink firmly states that his arrest was “unlawful” and the issue was a private family matter.

Vercammen said since Hilferink’s platform, he was just elected in November, was all about transparency and the public’s right to know why hadn’t he shared the incident on Facebook like so many other things he shares. She also informed the commission via a personal letter that she was calling for the commissioner’s resignation as his actions violated the city charter.

Hilferink briefly addressed the topic during the commissioner privilege section of the agenda on Feb. 16.

“I have nothing to hide, I did absolutely nothing wrong, I was unlawfully arrested, and the prosecutor completely denied the charges because all it was, was a disciplinary issue for my child. Anyone who knows me personally knows the amazing dad I am,” Hilferink said. 

While that may be the case, some still want answers about precisely what occurred citing Hilferink’s position as a city official and his behavior before, during, and after the incident. 

The “behavior” included: the commissioner making a phone call to the city’s police chief during the incident; threatening that the city was going to have another lawsuit on its hands after his arrest while stating he could end up with a new house because of it; saying at a public meeting that he was “unlawfully” arrested by the Marine City Police Department.

Photo courtesy of Marine City Police Department
Following his arrest at his home in Marine City, Commissioner Michael Hilferink was transported to the St. Clair County Jail and a video recording of the 30-minute ride was released in a FOIA package about the incident.

The body cam footage 

A written police report obtained through FOIA states that Marine City Police Officer Michael Dekun responded to a call to the address after the mother of Hilferink’s teenage daughter, who lives elsewhere in the city, called the police. The report notes that no drinking or drugs were involved in the incident.

A thirty-one-minute video from the police officer’s body camera showing the arrest was provided via FOIA, and so was an additional 30-minute video of Hilferink’s ride to the St. Clair County Jail.

Officers responded to the call at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 and when police officers arrived at Hilferink’s home they asked him if everything was okay. He said yes and that his daughter simply wasn’t listening to him. 

The officer then asked to speak with his 15-year-old daughter. 

On camera, Hilferink’s daughter tells the officer that her father knocked a notebook off her lap, hitting her leg in the process, the teen stated that he then took her cell phone and made fun of her when she was crying and asking to call her mom. She said she then left the house and her father followed, grabbed her neck, and led her back inside. The teen told the officers she was scared and wanted to go home – to her mom’s house.

When Hilferink returned to the porch he told the officers that he would not agree to have his daughter taken home by them, that he was simply disciplining her and that was allowable by law. 

The officer reminded Hilferink that he did in fact slap his daughter on the leg and again the commissioner stated ‘parents are allowed to spank their children.”

“I’m not a violent individual, I have no domestic violence…I’m simply trying to show my daughter some discipline when her mother lets her run amok,” Hilferink said.

“I’m just asking you to cooperate for tonight, I can see that you’re visually upset and your daughter’s upset,” Office Dekun said. 

“What I’m upset about is that I got a police officer in front of me saying I’m going to hit my daughter,” Hilferink said.

A comment is made by the accompanying police officer stating Hilferink needs to listen to the officer and Hilferink snaps at him that he should be saying things to de-escalate the situation not escalate it. He adds “how old are you, you seem pretty young. In your 20’s still, you have a lot to learn.”

Officer Dekun continues to try and defuse the situation.

“So, what I’m asking you is for tonight just let me take her home,” Officer Dekun said, adding that he’s not leaving a minor that’s scared at the residence.

Hilferink then stated that Marine City Police Chief James Heaslip was a personal friend who knows him very well and they should call him because he would vouch for Hilferink’s character. 

The police officer said he wasn’t concerned with involving the chief and instead again explained to Hilferink that what had occurred could be classified as domestic violence. 

Hilferink’s response stated that domestic violence laws were for incidents between husbands and wives, not parents and children. Growing frustrated the officer stated, “Mike stop, you don’t know what you’re talking about” and as Hilferink went back into his house the officer stated on the recording, “I’m trying to keep my patience.”

The officer then asked the teen to come to the front door again and asked if she was scared, her reply was yes. 

“She’s scared, so to me that means danger,” the officer stated to Hilferink who returned to the front door and was now on the phone with the chief of police.

“I’m a father simply showing my daughter discipline,” Hilferink insisted.

Decision to arrest is made

The officers continue to knock on the front door encouraging Hilferink to come out with his daughter to speak to them. 

“We may end up having to do this the hard way, Mike; you may end up going to jail do you want that?” Officer Dekun asked. 

Hilferink continues to debate the issue with the police officers through his front door.

“I’m still conducting an investigation, if you’re going to interfere with it, I’m going to lock you up Mike,” Dekun said. 

Hilferink than laughs out loud to which the officer replies this isn’t funny.

“The law clearly states that you can not put your hands on anyone,” the officer continued.

“You can discipline your child,” Hilferink insisted.

As the body cam continues to record the police officer states that now the issue was bordering on obstruction. As the commissioner remained inside his home using the phone a decision is made to take him into custody.

“Chief, chief, he’s putting cuffs on me, oh my God what is going on man?” a shocked Hilferink screamed. “I’m being arrested for discipling my kid? This city is going to have another lawsuit.”

While Hilferink was inside his home with another policeman, Officer Dekun remained out front speaking with the teen and her mom who had arrived on the scene. At this point Chief Heaslip also showed up at the home and states on the video that he just wanted to make sure everything was being handled okay, the officer said yes it was.

As the teen was asked to write out a formal statement she was released to the custody of her mom while Hilferink was placed in a patrol car headed for the St. Clair County Jail.

On the nearly 30-minute ride the video reflects the commissioner’s disbelief and upset at being arrested. He continues to ask the police officer how the incident turned into him going to jail. He stated that police are over-reaching their authority as the law is not written for parents to discipline their children,

As emotions ran high Hilferink went from shock at his arrest to apparently sobbing at the thought of being kept from his daughter going forward due to the charges. Then his demeanor swung to threats, as he stated he was going to “get a new house” because he would sue the city. 

“I don’t want to go after the city, they’ve had enough lawsuits,” Hilferink stated at one point. “I was just trying to get my kid to show respect and be respectful to elders.”

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