Sheriff’s department investigates wide range of crime

Sheriff's department investigates wide range of crime Passick by M. Jill Karolevitz Clay County Sheriff Dusty Passick tallied the 1999 incident reports and other statistics from his department for the Clay County Commissioners Jan. 25.

The sheriff�s department responded to 1,292 total calls, which resulted in 173 arrests for: driving under the influence (47); underage consumption (103); drug offenses (13); and paraphernalia offenses (10).

Vandalism topped the list of crimes reported in 1999, with a total of 29, followed by 26 incidents of theft. The sheriff�s department investigated 13 domestic abuse calls, 11 accounts of burglary and 8 incidents of assault in 1999.

Other crimes reported last year include arson (2), child abuse (3), forgery (2), indecent exposure (1), rape (1), sexual assault (2), and second degree murder/first degree manslaughter (1).

In addition, the Clay County Sheriff�s Department served 899 civil papers and 435 warrants of arrest, issued 126 traffic tickets and 174 warning tickets. In the Clay County Jail, 843 inmates were booked in, with a daily population average of 14.37.

Although the sheriff�s department�s jurisdiction includes the entire area of Clay County, last year marked the first time that a contract was made with the city of Wakonda for law enforcement protection.

�Wakonda contracts for 20 hours per week, or as many as they need,� Passick said. �This is done with the help of a COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant the county received for two officers.�

Wakonda budgeted $12,000 for law enforcement services in 1999.

A School Resource Officer program, which began late in the 1998-99 school year, has also been continued in Wakonda.

�Deputy Scott Bauer goes to the school twice a week,� Passick said. �The concept of the SRO program is to acquaint the students with a law officer as a person. He�s not there for enforcement by any means � it�s more of a public relations role. The deputy provides some instruction when the teachers request it, but the main idea is to meet with the kids on a basis that isn�t on a confrontational level. The SRO program humanizes the police officer, so students realize that we are people too and we have a job to do. We are there at school to clarify what that job is.�

Passick, an Iowa native, has been with the Clay County Sheriff�s Department for 27 years � 20 of those as sheriff.

�I came to Vermillion right after high school with my folks,� he said. �They bought the Coast to Coast store and I intended to go into the hardware business, but discovered I liked law enforcement better. The first job I had was with this department.�

His current term expires in 2002.

Running on an annual budget of $312,950 for the department and $166,825 for the jail (in 1999), the Clay County Sheriff�s Department covers about 400 square miles of territory. Full-time officers include Chief Deputy Les Kephart, Sgt. Andy Howe, and deputies Jason Husby, Scott Bauer and Paul Pederson. Matt Broderson is chief jailer and Kay Long is the secretary for the department.

�We also have five reserve officers who serve as backup,� Passick said. �They ride with the deputies, particularly on the night shift. They are extensively trained for the job, although they are not certified officers.�

Reserve officers are Roger Turner, Jeff Styles, Dennis Kayl, Tim Gregoire and Matt Olson.

After two decades as sheriff, Passick has developed a philosophy for his department � one that leans more toward correcting a problem, rather than making multiple arrests, he said.

�If you were to ask people what the job of a law enforcement officer is, they�d say it�s to arrest criminals,� Passick said. �But arrest is only a tool � it�s not the main focus of our job. Obviously making arrests is important, but there are many other solutions to a problem and we try to look at them first � whether it�s issuing warnings, suggesting treatment programs or calling parents. Our job is to correct a problem with the least restrictive solution. That�s what I try to impress upon the officers that work here.�

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