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Meet a candidate: Harold Dentinger

Harold Dentinger currently works on the Stark County Sheriff's Department's narcotics task force, but he hopes to bring 18 years of law enforcement experience to a new role as he runs for the title of sheriff. "My priorities would be to have a sa...

Harold Dentinger has served in the U.S. Marine Corps, worked private security and has 18 years of law enforcement experience, much of which was in the big city of Seattle, Wash. Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press
Harold Dentinger has served in the U.S. Marine Corps, worked private security and has 18 years of law enforcement experience, much of which was in the big city of Seattle, Wash. Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press

Harold Dentinger currently works on the Stark County Sheriff's Department's narcotics task force, but he hopes to bring 18 years of law enforcement experience to a new role as he runs for the title of sheriff.

"My priorities would be to have a safe, happy environment for the employees, have a safer environment for the community, work on getting this narcotics issue under control, providing the officers with the tools that they need to effectively enforce the law," Dentinger said. "If folks are wanting change in a more progressive department, I'd be the right choice for that, with my experience. From what I gather, a lot of people are looking for change, get away from that good-ol'-boy system."

Dentinger feels he can address some of the troubles that have plagued the department, including the loss of 25 employees over the past four years. In addition to his law enforcement experience, largely serving and protecting in the city of Seattle, Washington, Dentinger has worked in private security for hospitals and served his country for four years as a member of the Marine Corps-a family tradition.

"I've been serving the country and its communities for the last 28 years," Dentinger said. "Actually, I am like an eighth generation Marine on my father's side and a second generation Marine on my mother's side. That's just Marines. I did have other uncles who served in WW2, Korea-my uncle Harold served in WW2 with the 82nd Airborne and he was part of the Normandy Invasion and that's who I was named after ... I have a lot of military in my background, I guess it kind of runs in my blood."

Dentinger has been trained in a lot of modern police tactics and techniques, with an understanding of de-escalation tactics as well as a sense of community-centered enforcement.

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"I think law enforcement... that's ultimately what my calling is. I think going way back to the military, I always wanted to serve and help folks. Probably until the day I retire or the day I die I'll continue doing that," Dentinger said. "I like to get out and be amongst the community, I like meeting new people and I just enjoy it."

He thinks Stark County is in need of change, and he wants that change to work for the benefit of the employees.

"I think the people of Stark County, I think they deserve more. I think the employees of the Sheriff's Department, they deserve more. Right now morale is really low within the department, they're not being taken care of, they're not being valued as people or as employees," he said.

"Policing has changed so much over the years, and I think, for this locality, I think they're a little bit behind the times in terms of policing. Coming from a big agency that was progressive, just the way we conduct our business ... all that different kind of training and experience I received, I think that can be brought here. I understand Stark County is not Seattle, (but) the concepts can be brought here and utilized too."

To that end, Dentinger said he values transparency in his department.

"Don't try to cover anything up. If one of your guys screws up, they're going to be held accountable. But in that aspect, if people inquire about it ... be open," he said. "I understand certain investigations, until they are complete, they may not be able to be provided to the public right away, but once you get to that point where they can be-really show the community that this is what we're actually doing. This is how we're actually handling our business. That's what you need to do in this day and age."

In particular Dentinger wants to do more to engage the community.

"I would like, personally, to have additional monthly meetings for the communities so they can tell us, give us feedback-how do you think we're doing? What can we do better? And vice versa, build that rapport, that connection," he said. "They've got to be able to talk with you, see you, interact with you, get to know you. I understand that not everybody's going to like the police ... but if we take the steps to build those bridges ... if we get the community backing us, build that partnership and bond, it'll form a safer community."

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Police recruitment is down overall, Dentinger said, and he believes that if they want to build a force large enough to tackle the troubles facing Stark County, particularly narcotics and methamphetamine troubles, they need to build a place that draws people in.

"If you have a good department, you show your employees that you trust them, that they're an asset to your department. That makes for a happy place," he said. "The word gets out, you got your deputies, your office staff and those folks ... you start with that kind of environment and the word is going to get out. 'I've heard really good things about this place here.' That's going to draw them in."

Though being part of a military family saw Dentinger move around a lot as a kid, Dickinson has always been the home he's returned to.

"My mother was born and raised here in Dickinson. They had a farm south of town here, about 12 miles south on Highway 22. She was here, my parents met and my dad was in the military, they moved around a lot," he said. "I have a lot of family out here. So whenever my dad was stationed overseas, we'd come up here and live on the farm. During the summers we could have gone wherever we wanted to for summer vacation but nope, we just wanted to come up and work on the farm here."

Returning to his childhood farm remains a source of stress relief for Dentinger, and he still pitches in on his off days-when he isn't riding his Harley Davidson.

"I still, to this day, enjoy going down to the farm that my grandparents have ... I'll go down there and help them work. Helping with cattle, help seeding, doing hay-it's my day off and I just like to (go)," he said. "You have to enjoy life. Get out there, whatever makes you happy, that's what you have to do."

Though narcotics are his current area of focus at the Sheriff's Department, Dentinger has open eyes when it comes to the shift in legal policy with regards to marijuana.

"I don't really have an issue with it, it's kind of just like alcohol. You're an adult, you gotta be responsible with it. As for how does it affect law enforcement ... it's just like drinking and driving, people will be using narcotics (while driving) and it puts themselves in jeopardy, it puts the community in jeopardy. In that aspect I don't like it," he said. "Some people say that marijuana is the gateway drug, I'm kind of on the edge, I don't think it's the gateway drug to other ones."

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He describes one of his catchphrases as "train and retain" and he hopes to be able to provide valuable training to his deputies to help target problem areas in the area, should he be elected, and then keep them on board, so the investment stays in Stark.

"They have the drive, they want to do these things and, I hate to say it, the department right now is letting them down in those aspects, (in) providing the training to help," Dentinger said. "In the long run, you get these guys in training, they're happy and taking care of business the proper way and in turn ... the citizens are happy."

The election will be held June 12. Incumbent Terry Oestreich is defending his seat against Dentinger and Dickinson Police Sgt. Corey Lee.

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