Sheriff’s deputies need family lives, too

Published 9:37 am Friday, October 29, 2010

I have a different perspective than most citizens on the Freeborn County sheriff’s race. I have firsthand experience with law enforcement in Freeborn County for more than 10 years, not as a law enforcement officer but as an officer’s wife.

My husband worked as a deputy for the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office for seven years. As a wife of a law enforcement officer, you need to be very supportive to your loved one, who works varying hours. You need an understanding of the things they see and deal with on a daily basis and still be able to balance a stable family life.

In my husband’s last few years with the Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Mark Harig, this became increasingly hard, not only for my family but for other law enforcement families as well. Sheriff Harig creates a very hostile work environment, one in which the officers are unable to “shut off” when they are off duty. It is hard to get any sense of family and normalcy in your life with the many schedule changes, hostile work environment and lack of sleep.

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Every officer and his or her family deserve their time off. Consequently, the citizens of Freeborn County are also not getting the service they deserve. I suspect this situation has not gotten better but has only worsened in the past 3 1/2 years when I see the majority of the current deputies supporting and actively campaigning for Bob Kindler.

My husband enjoys his work as a law enforcement officer and serving the public. He now works for the Albert Lea Police Department. He also enjoyed serving the citizens of Freeborn County; however, the leadership or lack thereof under Sheriff Harig became intolerable to work with any longer. In addition, my husband wasn’t the only officer to leave since Harig’s re-election. Since Harig’s re-election or shortly before, six experienced and very good deputies left the department. Harig has said these deputies left for better pay and better benefits. I can honestly say those factors were never a consideration on my husband’s decisions to switch departments as I also suspect it wasn’t with the other deputies as well.

I encourage everyone to get informed on every aspect of the sheriff’s race and focus on what is important to the citizens of Freeborn County. Being the sheriff of Freeborn County is more than just the ICE contract or how many grants you apply for or how many fundraisers you do. What’s important is how the people of Freeborn County are being protected and served. Right now, with the low morale and unhappy deputies in the Sheriff’s Office, be assured you are not getting the quality you deserve out of this potentially great department with already well-qualified deputies.

Vote for Bob Kindler on Nov. 2! Give the citizens of Freeborn County and the deputies the leader they deserve!

Janelle Merkouris

Albert Lea