Challenges and Opportunities
Community Trust and Transparency
In today’s world of media and information overload it’s important that you as taxpayers and residents of Dakota County know what your Sheriff’s Office does. It’s easy to become misinformed and confused with the amount of information swirling in social media.
In order to establish trust between the community and the Sheriff’s Office, we must be willing to open the doors and share data and information. Where does your money go and how is it being used? The Sheriff’s Office currently has a transparency page on its public facing website. As your Sheriff, I will continue to be transparent sharing what we do while explaining why and how we do it. You will have access to our policies, programs, jail demographics, data on force used by deputies, calls for service and crime data, real time reporting of drug overdoses in the County and more. You deserve to know what your law enforcement agency is doing and how well it’s doing it.
As your Sheriff, I will ensure that you do.
The infiltration of illegal drugs in our communities continue to have a profound impact on overall crime and public health in Dakota County. For nearly seven years, I had the opportunity to work drug investigations and now as Chief Deputy, I am a member of the Dakota County Drug Task Force Board and the North Central High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Executive Board. Although we have had success and have arrested many drug dealers and seized drugs, guns and money, as your Sheriff I will continue that commitment. We must continue enforcement by identifying, targeting, and arresting large scale drug dealers and utilize diversion programs to rehabilitate users. I am familiar with and support local, state, and federal agencies working together investigating high level drug crimes and dismantling drug trafficking organizations. However, enforcement alone will not solve our attraction to drugs. We need a holistic approach to reduce the impact of illegal drugs including education, prevention, enforcement, and rehabilitation.
We often find drug addiction tied to other crimes such as burglaries, robberies, thefts, assaults, and homicides. We also know that drug addiction impacts one’s mental and physical health that can lead to depression, suicide, and overdoses. Large scale drug trafficking organizations are controlling the drug trade on our streets crippling the health and safety of our residents. Gone are methamphetamine labs from the mid-2000s, but methamphetamine is transported here in large quantities from Mexico and continues to be the most seized drug in our county today. In addition to high levels of methamphetamine, we are seeing record seizures of highly addictive and deadly heroin and fentanyl across the Twin Cities metro. The impact is an increasing number of people becoming addicted and widespread overdoses across the state.
As your Sheriff, I bring extensive knowledge and experience in this area and will work collaboratively and aggressively to address the impact of drugs in our community.
Mental Health Response and Inmate Care
According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults in the United States in 2020 experience a mental illness. As a community, we must must work together to improve our approach and response to mental health. Studies by Mental Health America (MHA) show that approximately 10% of all police contacts involve persons with some degree of mental illness. Rather than relying on the tools on their belts, first responders need to be better equipped and trained on the soft skills of de-escalation to reduce risk and improve likelihood of safe outcomes. In 2018, I played a significant role in the lobbying, planning, designing and grand opening of the Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training (SMART) Center in Inver Grove Heights. This one-of-a-kind site provides crisis-intervention training for first responders across the state.
Crisis-intervention training is one prong in a strategic approach to improving effectiveness in mental health crisis calls. Another is collaborating with social workers to team with law enforcement in initial crisis call response and follow-up to connect those in need to resources. MHA also reports that 14.5% of men and 31% of women in pre-trial detention, which comprises most of the detainees in our county jails, have a serious mental illness. We need to evaluate how we care for those in our jail that suffer from mental illness. They require integrated care and an environment where they feel safe and supported. We are in the design process of a multi-million dollar jail remodel to serve those needs and we continue to integrate additional health care professionals to provide special care.
As your Sheriff, I will continue to evaluate, collaborate, and focus on mental health response and care.
Advancements in technology can make our jobs in law enforcement safer, more efficient, and effective. Drones, body-worn cameras, 3D crime scene cameras, a jail body scanner and a virtual reality (VR) training system are some of the most recent technologies we brought to the Sheriff’s Office that have improved our ability to serve the community.
We continue to expand our body-worn cameras throughout the Office since first implemented in 2020. After being awarded a 2022 federal grant for $170,000 we will add nearly 80 additional body-worn-cameras beyond our patrol division to deputies in courts, investigations, civil, jail and our park rangers. This year, the Sheriff’s Office was the first agency in Dakota County to roll out a virtual reality (VR) training system that provides deputies with customizable, realistic, stress induced training on use of force and de-escalation tactics. The Sheriff’s Office was the first in the County to utilize drones for documenting crime and accident scenes and searching for lost individuals and fleeing suspects. We took a hard look at our pursuit policy and limit pursuits by our deputies. Through technology, we may be able to reduce risk in pursuits. There are now technologies available where an adhesive projectile containing a GPS can be launched from a patrol car onto a suspect vehicle transmitting the location relinquishing the need to pursue. We must continuously evaluate and modify our policies and practices to reduce risk and protect lives. As technology evolves, so must we.
As your Sheriff, I will continue to utilize cutting edge technology to keep you and your deputies safe and improve efficiencies in our operations.
At the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, we search for and hire candidates of high moral character. Once on board, we provide intensive training and the latest, cutting edge equipment so that they have training and tools to perform at a high level. We enforce a culture of accountability and hold our people to high expectations, standards, and the shared values of respect, integrity, compassion and professionalism. We also understand that despite the expectation to be courageous, confident, and skilled in their duties, deputies are human and we as leaders must ensure that they are physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Without that foundation, deputies may have difficulty sustaining our expected high productivity and effectiveness. At the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, we have made employee wellness a high priority to attract and retain quality, healthy employees.
Deputies are regularly exposed to trauma throughout their duties. I would argue more than any other profession. Vehicle crashes, homicides, assaults, suicides, drownings, along with the inherent dangers of the job are like concussions that accumulate and worsen over time. It’s important that we minimize exposure to trauma and when exposed, provide resources and a healthy, safe environment to process. We have learned that the stigma attached to officers where showing emotion is viewed as a weakness is in fact, detrimental to their health. We must transition to a culture where law enforcement openly discusses the struggles they face and are not afraid of being judged when they ask for help. In our Sheriff’s Office, we have initiatives to support that new culture. In 2020, we implemented an early warning system that documents when deputies are exposed to a traumatic event. The system prompts follow up by peer support staff and supervisors. When intervention is needed, deputies are provided with additional support and resources. The Sheriff’s Office also has an employee wellness program that includes a peer support team and in 2021 we added mandatory annual personal visits with a clinical psychologist.
As your Sheriff, I will continue to recruit and hire a diverse workforce of high character and prioritize the wellness of our public servants so that they can be their best while serving.
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