In this election we will be selecting a Sheriff in Tama County. I have worked in Tama County Law Enforcement since 1999, and have had the good fortune to work for Sheriff Richardson, Sheriff Bolen, and Sheriff Kucera.
I have been paying attention to the issues being raised by Bryan Ellenbecker, and would like to briefly address my concerns about them.
He promises to form a SWAT team in Tama County. We have never needed a SWAT team in Tama County and have the Iowa State Patrol SWAT team on 24 hour call for us at no charge to Tama County if we ever do need one. A SWAT team would add many hours of training for our officers who have plenty to do as it is. In most barricade situations you have time to wait for the State Patrol. In an active shooter situation in a school responding officers will not wait for SWAT, they will go in and engage the suspect immediately to draw fire away from the kids. Often these suspects kill themselves when law enforcement enters the building. Columbine officers waited for SWAT and the rest of us learned from that and will never repeat their mistakes.
He promises a full time animal control officer for the Sheriff's Office. We get animal calls by default because there is no one else to take them. Our response to animal calls is not perfect but we seem to get the job done at no extra cost to tax payers. If there is a need for an animal control person this is up to the Supervisors to address not the Sheriff's Office. I'd rather have another Deputy and more jail space to put bad guys in than a countywide dog catcher and kennels. The promise is to hire a full time person for what my observation tells me will be a part time job.
Also he promises to provide 24 hour coverage, which would be nice but has never been achieved by any previous Sheriff that I am aware of. It is a noble goal but it seems easier to write down the perfect schedule on paper than it is to live that schedule in the real world. Vacations, sick days, training, and any number of issues make gaps in the 24 hour coverage unless you hire more Deputies. Keep in mind, the gaps that exist are not huge time periods, and there is always a Deputy on call when they do happen.
I think it is likely that previous Sheriff's have looked at the potential for a SWAT team, and have concluded that it is not needed or feasible. I am assuming that they have thought hard about animal problems in Tama County but we are not dog catchers, we are bad guy catchers. The struggle to provide 24 hour coverage challenges all Sheriff's in rural counties and we do our best with what we have to work with.
I have watched Sheriff Kucera deal with the basic daily issues in our office. Rising fuel costs cutting into his budget, lack of bed space in the jail, increasing numbers of mental and substance abuse committals, providing assistance to the Mid Iowa Drug Task Force to keep drug trafficking minimized in Tama County. I have watched him cover many holes in the schedule by hiring certified officers from other agencies on a part time basis so that Deputies can take vacations or take sick days when needed. On top of those daily challenges I have observed him have unforeseen challenges thrown into his lap and deal with them without hesitation.
These promises being made all have a long term price tag associated with them. They also take away more deputy time while we are already struggling to provide 24 hour coverage.
I will be voting for Sheriff Dennis Kucera in this election.