No longer isolated -- Sheriff Kuhn explores lateral coordination with neighboring agencies
Implementing coordination in policing is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of fighting crime, according to the newly elected Dunn County Sheriff Gary Kuhn. It's something, he says, Dunn County has lacked in years past and something he has been diligently working on since assuming office last Wednesday.
"It's an honor to be the sheriff here; it's something I've been working my whole life toward and it's really a great opportunity to use some of the skills I've learned over the years to do what's right for the community," he said.
Kuhn added, "I've been in law enforcement in the southwest part of the state for quite some time, and under the old sheriff, this department were a little bit more of their own entity here. I believe in working together with all the agencies, and it's my goal to reach out to the surrounding law enforcement agencies and first responders to create a network of information sharing and help each other out where we can."
According to Kuhn, coordination in law enforcement is important for a number of reasons — most notably, when law enforcement fail to coordinate their activities adequately, crimes and their detection and prosecution can slip through organizational cracks.
"When I say we were isolated I mean that under the old sheriff, Dunn County wasn't involved in networking with other agencies," he said. "We're going to be looking to join the Southwest Narcotics Task Force down the road and will look to get one full-time person dedicated to drug enforcement in the area."
The Southwest Narcotics Task Force covers Dunn, Stark, Bowman, Adams, Slope, Golden Valley, Hettinger and Billings counties and relies on coordination and participation from multiple agencies to combat narcotics traffic in the region.
Kuhn, who took his oath of office during the Dunn County Commission meeting on Jan. 2, has been laying the groundwork for a smooth transition and the implementation of a few campaign promises.
Meeting with the Dunn County Emergency Management Coordinator, Denise Brew, Kuhn scheduled future meetings with all area emergency responders in an effort to improve coordination of services for Dunn County.
"I'll definitely be involved in that conversation on the problems we have here, and how we can work together to achieve making things better for everyone," Kuhn said.
Speaking about lateral networking, Kuhn was excited about upcoming events such as the Southwest Sheriff's meeting and the Sheriffs and Chiefs meeting in Bismarck.
"Sheriff Lee of Stark County and the chief of police in Dickinson will be sitting down and meeting with me to discuss some of the problems we are having and avenues to address them. I also plan to meet with the Killdeer Police Department this week to discuss some of the things we can do together in the future."
Sheriff Kuhn named Mike Brost to the position of Dunn County chief deputy, and tasked the Dunn County native with implementing his vision. Brost, as second-in-command to the sheriff, will handle patrol and administration duties for the sheriff's office.
With the two most senior law enforcement positions in the county now officially filled, Kuhn said he will next seek to improve the department's dated equipment and standard operating procedures.
"Our responsibility is to help the community in any way that we can, and I want to work with local businesses and schools on how they can provide better security such as lighting and cameras to prevent crime," Kuhn said. "We want everyone on the same page so we can deter that kind of behavior from happening here in our community."
Together, Kuhn and Brost secured six new Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles to replace the department's aging Ford Interceptor patrol vehicles. According to the Dunn County Sheriff's Office, the new vehicles are full-sized SUV's with larger fuel tanks, passenger and equipment capacity which will allow for better policing of a rural population spread over 2,082 square miles.
"We are facing a lot of oil traffic and transient people," Kuhn said. "Right now, I'd like to beef up our patrol and our drug enforcement capabilities. I'll actually be speaking with (North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation) today about the latter."
A huge advocate of community policing, Kuhn said that under his leadership, citizens of Dunn County would see his deputies' presence in the community on a more routine basis.
"The biggest thing with me is that I believe in community policing, I believe in getting out and speaking with the public because I believe they are a wealth of information," he said. "I also want to get involved in the local schools working with the little kids. I think we're going to try and put on some safety programs for the kids in the future. I want our department to be very visible in the community as far as events are concerned. We want to be in the public eye so that they can come up to us and talk."
Detailing future community relations programs Kuhn seeks to implement, he commended other agencies on their programs such as coffee with a cop.
"Coffee with a cop is one of the programs I want to bring in to Dunn County, but not just with law enforcement — we're going to extend an invitation out to all emergency responders and use that as a way for us to get together and be a part of the community." he said.
Speaking directly to the citizens of Dunn County, Kuhn expressed his appreciation for their vote of confidence that he is "the man for the job."
"If the public perceives us as an agency that they can trust and know that they can call and we'll respond to their needs, I think that would be my biggest goal," he said. "We are going to be a visible and transparent agency, we are going to regain the trust of the community and we are going to provide the best safety we can."