As Pine County sheriff, I write a quarterly column to update residents on current events within the sheriff’s office. We have now completed the fourth quarter of 2012 and the second year of my four-year term.
The fourth quarter saw the opening of the Central District Sheriff’s Station in Hinckley. This station allows the assignment of personnel and equipment where they are needed, decentralizing our services. Each of our three policing districts contains approximately the same number of residents and the total resources of the sheriff’s office have been divided equally between the three districts. Each district station is staffed with a supervisor, investigator, complement of patrol deputies, and office secretary.
Another factor that influenced the decision to place an office in Hinckley was fuel consumption. In 2011 our fuel budget was $100,000 but we actually consumed $170,000 worth of fuel, $70,000 over budget. To control costs, in 2012 the practice of take-home cars was sharply curtailed. Even our chief deputy gave up his vehicle and we have now operated out of the Hinckley office for two months. These changes have saved us $50,000 in fuel costs.
Pine County's new emergency radio system became fully functional on December 31, 2012 —12 hours before our existing FCC license was due to expire. This system provides radio communication between the sheriff's dispatch center and all emergency services in the county. Over the next several months, several more broadcasting sites are scheduled to come on line and will increase coverage and reliability. Work on the new paging system continues; the system is operational but testing did not meet expectations and our vendors are making adjustments. We were also able to negotiate with the state and received another 10 handheld radios free of charge for our local fire departments. These radios are valued at over $26,000.
In 2011/2012 the sheriff’s office made a substantial investment to modernize our SWAT team. Outdated equipment, helmets, and armored vested were replaced. Members were sent to basic and recertification training, several deputies were sent to negotiator's training. These expenditures proved their value during an incident in which a hostage, shot by her estranged ex-husband, was rescued from him inside her Brook Park home. The ex-husband later shot himself after a standoff with SWAT team members and negotiators.
When I took office, I swore an oath to serve Pine County in a moral and ethical manner. Each of my deputies is an extension of that oath and the individual oath they swore. I will never allow or tolerate wrongdoing within the sheriff's office. This standard applies to every employee, no matter his or her position or tenure. During the fourth quarter, a deputy violated his oath, is no longer an employee and is charged with multiple criminal offenses.
The sheriff’s office continues working to coordinate flood recovery efforts in the northern part of the county. This process may take several years and the sheriff’s office will continue to assist victims by coordinating recovery efforts.
For the fourth quarter (100 percent) of 2012, overall the sheriff’s office has expended 100 percent of our budget. We have spent the following percentage of each budget: Sheriff 107 percent, Corrections 95 percent, and Dispatch 89 percent or an average of 97 percent.
Listen for weekly updates, during the Pine County Sheriff’s Report, Thursday mornings at 0730 on WCMP radio.