Harig proposals aim to make county force leaner, meaner

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Sheriff Mark Harig is proposing to the county board a reorganization of the department that includes a new deputy sheriff position. But the attempt may trigger arguments because the plan conflicts with with a 6 percent budget cut recommended by a special committee.

Harig said he would fill a vacant investigator/supervisor position, which he wants to fill with a deputy sheriff.

The position is &uot;somebody I can have as the second-in-command,&uot; Harig said. The deputy sheriff would also be in charge of training patrolmen, he added. Harig said this approach has an advantage because an experienced investigator would offset the time and cost for training if one of the patrolmen were promoted.

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Harig, who promised stronger drug enforcement in his election campaign last year, already resumed the county’s participation to the South Central Drug Investigative Unit last month by assigning one deputy to the unit.

Another proposal is to send three officers to SWAT training. The department has a mutual-aid agreement with other counties and city police, but the $600-per-person training and $1,000 in equipment would reduce response time and bills for the help, Harig pointed out.

In addition, he wants to have part-time transport officers who take inmates and juveniles to a prisons and other facilities. In the past three months, 84 hours were spent for 28 trips. Having deputies handle the transport costs more, and finding a new system could help prevent burnout of deputies, Harig said.

Harig intends to carry out what he has had in mind since his election campaign: a stronger police force. The sheriff’s office has already been showing its proactive commitment in drug investigation, making eight arrests of methamphetamine offenders this year, the second-highest number in the state. Harig said the strict enforcement has resulted in a lower occurence of burglaries and vandalism.

&uot;We are not the dirtiest community in Minnesota,&uot; Harig said. &uot;But, if we don’t address (drug crimes), these people come forward.&uot;

But the commissioners may have a difficult time going along with Harig’s ideas. The special committee recommended the sheriff’s office budget to be trimmed by $92,027, or 6 percent of the $1.534 million total.

The board will discuss the budget in detail during a workshop on Thursday.