Webinar presenters Rich Meyers, Linda Chezem and Brent Worth answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Rural Law Enforcement Challenges: A Round Table Discussion. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Given the multiple roles a single officer might take in an incident, how do you handle training? Are there particular areas you emphasize at different points in their career for that deputy? How do you manage that?
Sheriff Rich Myers: We got a lot of resources. A lot of it comes with the experience. A young officer is a go-getter, a young learner, he’s got to be out hitting the bushes, taking names and making arrests. That’s a great resource to go about it. As you get further along in your career and you can see what is happening, how it’s taking place, exactly what the calls are, and how to deal with these – it comes with experience. We have a lot of training that we offer our officers and we send them to help them with their decision-making skills and for what they do, they get a lot of that in the Academy when they first go through their initial start and they have the field training program that they are with. Seasoned officers when they come out there and learn more and take their Academy knowledge and actually use it in real-life situations. And again, that on the road, on the street experience is worth so much to them and help them out.
Captain Brent Worth: We are fortunate in our county to have multiple agencies that train together – we’ll train with the town marshals. As far as the disparity between rural and urban communities, we do train our officers and they could be in a position and it’s acceptable to change the level of force that they need to do to control or handle a situation. That’s very well affable if they’re by themselves for some time. It’s important as administration, the sheriff and his leaders to understand. We have a great administration that does understand that could be a real thing, where officers could potentially use more force and a backup officer is there within minutes. And that’s perfectly acceptable and we try to give them the tools they need to handle the situation and train them how to respond, we have dual response team and officers to handle these things.
Sheriff Rich Myers: We’re very fortunate with Captain Worth’s background as an EMT in the medical field, he’s also the President of the Morgan County Substance Abuse Council. So that expertise and knowledge that he has there, he brings to our department and has training sessions at least yearly with everybody in the department because they go through the required trainings. But that sort of, finding an officer who’s interested in certain areas of training, we’ll hook them up with that training – whether it be traffic, whether it be drugs, whatever their specialty is and whatever they see they like. We push them towards that to become more knowledgeable and they bring that back to us in service trainings which helps everyone within the department and within the community. The better the training officer is, the better it is for his department, and it’s better for the community.
Linda Chezem: Having Captain Worth cross-train, is probably worth more than its weight in gold. It’s not that common in law enforcement to have an EMT plus law enforcement trained person. You’ll also get some training from the prosecutor too. In Morgan County, the prosecutor really is trying to keep everybody on top of the statutory changes.
Audience Question: As part of the Residential Substance Abuse Program, have you incorporated medication-assisted treatment? And if so, what lessons might you be able to share?
Jail Commander David Rogers: This is something that in Morgan County, everything that we’ve done with this RSAP has been a partnership with all of our criminal justice and community partners. The totality of everyone together kind of came up with the theory that we didn’t want to go that direction. One main reason for Morgan County, the survey showed that methamphetamine is our go-to drug here. Opiates obviously follow. Our county did not elect to do MAT. We have looked at it and kept a close eye on it as a possible option if needed. But even doing with the offenders, we do include the offenders in some of the decisions being made on how this program goes and what directions. That wasn’t necessarily a recommendation that came positive from the offenders as being a legitimate treatment process. Although you can look at statistics in different ways, so some statistics will show that it can be productive but it’s just not the direction our county has went. Not to say that we won’t in the future. But it’s what we’re doing right now and we’re happy with the results and that’s being pushed heavily.
Audience Question: Can you share some of your experiences with recruiting and retaining good people? How would you recommend other rural agencies address this issue?
Sheriff Rich Myers: We have several ways that we do that. A lot of that believe it or not is word of mouth. It starts going out when we have a hiring process. Captain Worth also puts it out on social media which we get a big response from. There is a site through the Law Enforcement Academy which anybody can go to see any possible job openings. I know he’s done it nationally also. We actually just had a process where we hired from within the state and out of the state. We’ve had our last two processes where we’ve got deputies from other states. It’s a `plethora of ways that we send it out. I think our social media and IALEA site seems to be the biggest return.
Captain Brent Worth: You’ve got to reach the candidates, whether that be an existing officer working in an agency. You’ve got to be competitive with the benefits and the salary obviously to recruit and retain those employees. About a year and a half ago, we implemented a lateral entry program and when we got our benefits and our incentive package to where it interests other applicants, we really brought in a lot of good, qualified, already trained police officers. That helps us when we reach whether it’s in or outside of the state into other agencies to recruit from them. We’ve been fortunate to have those tools.
Audience Question: Many jails nationally are reporting housing of mentally ill in jails has become a significant issue for them. Are you experiencing this issue? And how do you address the mentally ill in your facility?
Jail Commander David Rogers: We are no different than what’s happening nationally that is corrections are becoming mental health facilities, unfortunately. We’ve been proactive here, we have a couple of mental health therapists that come in every day at each week and we make that available to the offenders at no cost. We work with our community partners, one of those is Centerstone which is our community mental health facility. And then we also house some out of county partners that we work with such as the Hamilton Center that helps us through this. It’s not picture-perfect to deal with mental health in jails, it’s something we’ve all kind of been dealt and have to deal with. You just have to really build your partnerships up with your community partners and help offset those costs as much as possible. But just not addressing doesn’t make it go away, and it’s going to cost the facilities to not run very smooth. These tend to be your high-maintenance people, the ones that cause use of force situation a lot of times, and if you’re not proactive in dealing with that, you’re going to have (59:38 inaudible). It is something that we have been proactive about and we’ve been able to control costs.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Rural Law Enforcement Challenges: A Round Table Discussion.