2012-09-13 / Opinion

Todd County Sheriff addresses special operations and costs

Recently there have been some comments made about some of the different functions of the sheriff’s office and whether or not there is a need for some of these special operations and the cost associ- ated with them. I’ll address some of those diff erent parts of our office.

The Todd County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol operates on grant funding from the State of Minnesota. The sheriff’s office is responsible for all of the waters in Todd County. This includes patrol, enforcement, investigating watercraft accidents and drowning.

Contrary to most people’s beliefs, the DNR does not handle accidents and drowning on the water, the sheriff’s office does. The boat that we use was purchased under a federal grant prior to me becoming sheriff.

The pickup that we use for water patrol is a 2000 model and was purchased used under the previous sheriff. The Jet Ski’s that we use are supplied to us at no cost under a grant. We do have some expenses related to water patrol but the vast majority is grant funded.

The canine unit that we use was donated to our office. Typically, the price of a canine is close to the $10,000 range. The previous sheriff had two canine units for much of his term.

The sheriff’s posse is a volunteer organization. It is rare that they are called out but they have been very beneficial in searching for lost persons, looking for evidence after a major crime and for security at large events. The posse operates on donations and raises money through different organizations who hire them to patrol town events, the county fair and similar activities.

The mobile command center that we have was also purchased for a very reasonable amount under a federal grant and is actually part of the Emergency Management budget. Emergency Management has spent very little to make this a very functional base to operate out of in major cases. The majority of the equipment in the trailer was paid for by grants.

The trailer was utilized for a plane crash in 2007 for approximately three days; in the city of Wadena during the 2010 tornado for approximately two weeks; and at a homicide near Osakis just over a year ago. Approximately 10 to 15 law enforcement personnel operated out of the trailer during heavy rain. It allowed us a base to work out of at the scene of this horrifi c incident.

We were required under a federal mandate to update our communications system and much of the upgrade was also grant funded.

There are substantial costs associated with this system but it will definitely improve the safety of the officers and the services that we provide.

We live in a society that is constantly relying on technology for everything we do. We were able to implement a computer system in our squad cars for a very reasonable price. We went with a vendor who was looking for an agency in Minnesota to implement their system and because we were the first in the state, we received their system for approximately $80,000. Half of that cost was covered by our Emergency 911 fund.

Those funds are generated through phone billing and we are limited on where we can use that money.

By using those funds, we did not take a large amount of money out of our budget. We obtained quotes from two other vendors and those quotes were approximately $280,000.

The system that we went with is working very well and provides the officers with very important data in their squads.

The alcohol and tobacco compliance checks are grant funded and they do not affect our budget. The “Safe and Sober” and “Towards Zero Deaths” campaigns that we are involved in are grant funded and do not affect our budget except for some very minimal training.

We do not respond to every car/deer accident. Numerous times we take care of these incidents over the phone. We do respond at times when the vehicles are inoperable or if the driver would like to claim the deer. The DNR does not issue possession permits to individuals that are involved in these accidents, we do.

We do need officers at large events. We do not have nearly the amount of security at these events as many agencies do. Our presence at Browerville Days and Grey Eagles GEM Fest was partly grant funded through the Youth Alcohol Prevention Grant that Long Prairie and Browerville recently received. There are extremely irrational, unpredictable people in our society and the potential for a major incident at one of these events is always a possibility.

The Todd County Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting bad checks and dealing with the issue that you addressed regarding opening up gated township roads. We did what we needed to do in that incident and charged the violator with the crime.

We do everything possible at the sheriff’s office to operate within the budget. There are times that we are operating with a very minimal staff which is a safety issue for the officers and the public in general.

I recently attended a commissioner’s work session to discuss the possibility of adding another full time deputy. I believe that my request for an additional full time deputy could save us money and I feel that I could fill that position without affecting the budget. By adding a full time position, we will be able to cut down on overtime costs, transport costs and in other areas.

As always, contact the sheriff’s office if you see something suspicious or observe a crime in progress. You can contact the sheriff’s office locally at 320-732-2157 or toll free at 800-794-5733. If you have an emergency, call 911.

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