I was recently informed of some misleading and false information regarding how the Sheriff’s Office is handling the pandemic. Information like this can unnecessarily spread fear and distrust. Therefore I feel it’s important for the public to know how and why we are handling things as we are.
This pandemic is something none of us have ever dealt with before. Everything is uncertain. This has been more challenging than anything I’ve encountered in my 16 years as sheriff.
I knew that it was necessary to act quickly but also with wisdom. I immediately consulted with a group of 14 northwest Iowa sheriffs, who I regularly meet with, to find out their plan of action. I was also given advice from many other sheriffs in Iowa along with our state prisons. I immediately met with my command staff (Chief Deputy, Captain, Lieutenant and Jail Commander). Based on this significant input, we realized that it is absolutely imperative that we keep the COVID virus out of the jail, while still maintaining public safety for our citizens. A contingency plan and protocol was developed. The decision was made to take only the violent arrestees into the jail.
The rationale from other sheriffs and us, was to take any and all action to keep the virus out of our jails. The fear among all sheriffs is this: If the virus gets into the jail and among the inmates, many would be hospitalized – at county expense. Additionally, a jailer would have to be stationed at the hospital with the inmate. Another concern is, if the jailers contract the virus, there will not be enough staff to work within the jail.
Those who are arrested, but not housed their first few hours in jail, are still charged with the same crime, not just “given a ticket” as the misleading information wants you to believe. If the person is convicted of the crime, they will serve the same amount of jail time. Some of our local law enforcement agencies have used this same procedure even before the pandemic hit.
Our deputies are advised to be very careful when dealing with the public, using PPE and common sense. This has been common practice with many law enforcement agencies, as well as schools, churches, hospitals and other businesses. This action has been taken to keep our deputies healthy so we have enough officers to provide the most essential county protection.
Our deputies continue to respond to all serious calls and/or dangerous traffic situations.
Finally, the misleading information stated that I have been gone the “VAST” majority of time during this pandemic. That simply is not true. I have been working remotely from my home in Sioux Center. I’ve encouraged many of my administrative deputies to do the same, so we can all stay healthy. As sheriff, I realize it is vital that I stay healthy so I can continue to lead us through these challenging and adverse times.
This pandemic has been extremely difficult to deal with. It is certainly unprecedented times. Our staff has been working through it the best we can. There has not been any procedures from the past to follow.
So far we are pleased to report that we have kept everyone in the jail, along with our deputies, COVID-free. A lot of credit needs to go out to my staff for their diligence in doing the job and the caution they have used.
As we continue moving forward through this pandemic, we are phasing back into normal operations. Four weeks ago I met with the County Attorney, Assistant County Attorney and the police chiefs from Sioux County to put that process into place. It has been going well.
I can assure you that after 41 years in law enforcement, 37 with the Sheriff’s Office and 16 as Sheriff, I take great responsibility for, and put great effort and time into these difficult decisions, in order to keep our county safe.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.