Sheriff: Drug Deaths Down, Jail Overcrowding Is Issue
In his annual report to Marinette County Board on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Sheriff Jerry Sauve said inability to attract and retain quality personnel, particularly in the jail, is a major concern for him and his department.
"We need to work together to see that our essential service occupation employees are attracted to the position and compensated fairly," he told the board. He said too often they hire personnel, train them, and then see them move on to better paying jobs in other counties.
On the good news side, he said there were five traffic deaths in Marinette County in 2016, "and although one death is one too many, this is a vast improvement from years past. We believe our continued efforts in traffic enforcement and our partnership with the O.W. I. Task Force has had an impact in this area."
He said there also was a reduction in deaths related to drug overdose, and commented, "We hope that our partnership in our Drug Court and continued enforcement efforts are also having an impact in this area."
As to the staffing issues, Sauve declared, "The Carlson-Dettman Study recommendations cannot come quickly enough for me." He was referring to the county-wide wage/benefit study that is in progress, and expressed hope the results will be a pay scale that is competitive with other areas and fair to all employees.
Sauve said currently there is inequity in pay between departments in Marinette County, and part of the problem is that there at present is no mechanism for giving raises and advance pay grades for personnel hired on the low side of the current pay scale.
"Thank goodness we have a faithful core group of employees," Sauve declared.
January was the low jail population month for 2016, with 109 prisoners, and December was high, with an average of 132. Maximum number of prisoners is theoretically 165, but this is limited by need to separate prisoners by sex, severity of crimes for which they were convicted, and other issues.
Average inmate population in 2016 was up 57.2 percent from 2004, when the jail was new. There were 2,000 people booked into jail, 1,461 males and 539 females, which was 56 more than were booked in 2015. Highest inmate count in the last dozen years was 143 in February of 2013, and 140 in October of 2015, but the average population has remained at or near record highs since 2013.
Sauve told the board the jail population has been growing exponentially, and would be even higher, but he is doing everything he can to keep the number of inmates down. High inmate population not only puts a strain on jail personnel, it also is stretching physical capacity of the jail to its limits.
While the existing jail was designed to allow adding "pods" to expand its inmate capacity, Sauve has repeatedly said at meetings of the Law Enforcement and Buildings and Property committees that he hopes that costly construction can be avoided. "I may be selfish," he declared at the Feb. 28, meeting, "but if there has to be an addition to the jail I hope it won't happen on my watch!"
The county's 5-year Capital Improvement Plan does list possible construction of a multi-million dollar jail addition.
In addition to working with Drug Court to keep the jail inmate count down, Sauve said he has met with the local judges to discuss the problem, "and they couldn't have been more gracious." He said with the cooperation of the judges six lucky inmates even got "get out of jail free" cards.
In addition he has been asking Probation and Parole and even his own officers to avoid taking people to jail if they can.
He said there are currently 19 persons in Drug Court, and without that option at least half of them would be in jail.
Also, on Feb. 28 there were seven persons sentenced to jail who were out on electronic monitoring, which he said is "a bit risky" for him, as he is responsible if they get into trouble after he has authorized the electronic monitoring release.
There also were eight persons out on "Sober Link" who had been convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses.
He said the judges are not always comfortable with the numbers out on electronic monitoring and Sober Link, "but with the staffing issue at the jail, we've got to get them in and get them out again soon."
Part of the key to keeping jail inmate numbers down is providing programs aimed at helping offenders stay out of trouble after they are released. To that end, numerous inmate education programs are offered. In 2016, over 20 programs were offered to inmates, and 171 completed programs, earning a total of 134 days taken off their sentences. In 2016, 16 inmates obtained their Graduate Equivalency Diplomas, up from nine the year before, and in addition inmates received passing scores on 87 individual course tests leading to their GEDs.
Other programs offered include NA, AA, religious programs, pastoral visits, and jail outreach on a continuing basis, as well as structured programs like AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) prevention, Anger Management, parenting and more, including high school diplomas, which are scheduled on a time specific completion basis.
In addition, inmates were able to earn time off for community service activities or working in the jail on housekeeping, kitchen, laundry and library duties, saving 248 jail days in 2016.
In total 466 bed days were saved in 2016 due to time off earned by prisoners who participated in the programs, without counting the return stays that the programs may have been prevented.
Sauve's report included a thank you to jail staff for managing the flow of inmates and instructors for the programs while maintaining jail security, and to all the program volunteers, tutors and instructors. "Without all the support, programs in the jail would not be a successful as they are," Sauve's report declared.
While the number of jail inmates has remained somewhat stable thanks to release and time off programs, there has been "an uptick" in juvenile arrests, for whatever reasons, Sauve reported. With juvenile facilities at nearby counties overfilled Marinette County is sending juveniles to Sheboygan County if they have been ordered into secure detention. Transporting a prisoner there or back for a court appearance requires an entire day for an officer.
The Marinette County Sheriff's Department includes a Detectives Division headed by Detective Lieutenant Barry Dignity, Detectives Todd Baldwin, Craig Kasten and Dan Miller, and Drug Officer Bill Swanson. They work closely with numerous other law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and other states, as well as with Marinette County Human Services and other Human Services Departments.
In 2016 the department investigated approximately 52 deaths (five fewer than last year), 25 sexual assaults (up one from last year), 75 burglaries (down 39 from 2015) and conducted approximately 144 drug investigations, which is 59 more than in 2015. Two of the deaths investigated were from drug overdoses. The report states many of the cases were cleared by arrest.
Major cases worked on y the division in 2015 included the attempted robbery of the State Bank of Florence and Stephenson National Bank in the Village of Wausaukee in August, an armed robbery of a Town of Stephenson residence in August, and an officer involved shooting in June. There were also several serial burglars convicted who were responsible for numerous burglaries.
According to the report, the Detectives Division also continues to investigate older unsolved homicides that occurred in Marinette County.
Marinette County also cooperates with numerous other agencies in the North East Tri-County Drug Enforcement Group, which is made up of investigators from the Marinette, Menominee, Dickinson and Oconto Counties Sheriff's Offices; Wisconsin Department of Justice; Marinette, Menominee, Peshtigo, Oconto, Oconto Falls, and Niagara city police; Crivitz and Coleman Police Departments; Wisconsin State Patrol, Kingsford Public Safety group from Iron Mountain, Norway and Dickenson County in Michigan (KIND); Shawano and Brown County Drug Task Force, and various special units, including K-9 units, from the Marinette, Menominee and Oconto county areas.
As a result of 2016 drug investigations a total of 75 individuals were arrested for offenses that involved the illegal use and distribution of illegal drugs. The report states 2016 showed a decrease in the number of Heroin investigations, and an increase in Methamphetamine investigations and arrests. Of 22 people arrested for prescription drug violations, 19 were arrested for delivery of scheduled narcotics and three for prescription violations.
There were three arrests for delivery of cocaine, 12 for delivery of heroin or possession with intent to deliver, three each for delivery of cocaine or intent to deliver, and 13 for possession of meth with intent to deliver.
There were nine arrests for marijuana offenses.
Members of the drug task force also investigated several cases of illegal drugs brought into the Marinette County jail and worked with the Brown County Drug Task force and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation in cases that led to the arrest of three people in the Green Bay area for delivery of heroin and cocaine in or around Marinette County. The Tri-County Drug Enforcement Group also assisted in four drug overdose investigations and aided other area detectives in assorted criminal investigations including burglary and murder for hire.
Crime Stoppers, which pays rewards ranging from $50 to $1,000 anonymously to individuals who provide information leading to arrests and convictions remains a valuable tool for local law enforcement. With use of technology, name of the informant remains unknown even to law enforcement people.
Due to some Wisconsin Supreme Court Rulings, the non-profit organization no longer receives monies from the court system, so they are more than ever in need of donations to help for information that leads to arrests, as well as to keep up with technology.
A generous donation from Stephenson National Bank & Trust of Marinette made it possible for Crime Stoppers to buy some specialized software that even further protects the identity of anonymous informants, a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation allowed purchase of new computer tablets for Marinette and Menominee police department drug officers, a grant from the M&M Community Foundation was used toward purchase of a camera for the Marinette Police Department Drug Officer, and grant money from the Hannahville Indian Community will be used to buy a tent canopy and display table for use at community events.
During 2016 the OWI Task Force, which includes officers from the Marinette City Police and the sheriff's department, deployed 26 times. Officers and deputies made 616 traffic stops, issued 298 citations,made 37 OWI arrests, 30 drug arrests and seven warrant arrests. The highest OWI arrest was a sixth offense. An individual also was arrested during an OWI deployment for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, according to the annual report.
At quarterly Victim Impact Panel sessions in 2016, 95 OWI offenders heard victims, survivors or offenders of impaired driving crashes speak about the tragic event and how it impacts their lives daily. That program had been halted, but was restarted in August of 2015 and has been well received.
The 2016 report shows officers investigated 3,450 offenses in 2016, and made 1,286 arrests. There were 634 car/deer accidents.
The 239 charges against juveniles included 12 for drug or narcotic violations, nine for disorderly conduct, 93 for liquor law violations, and 75 for destruction to property.
There were 2,981 citations issued, and 424 motor vehicle crashes were reported.
At the conclusion of his printed report, Sauve included an update on nationwide law enforcement fatalities. There are currently 20,789 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to the first known death in 1791. In his opening letter he asked everyone to remember the dedication of the brave men and women of the Sheriff's Office who are on watch 365 days a year, around the clock. "We, as a law enforcement family, mourned the loss of Rusk County's Deputy Dan Glaze, who was shot and killed on duty October 29, 2016," Sauve said. "His death was close to home for us as we see the increasing violent and dangerous profession in law enforcement across the nation."
Nationally, law enforcement fatalities rose to their highest level in five years in 2016, with 135 officers killed in the line of duty. firearms-related incidents were the number one cause of death, with 64 officers shot and killed. Of those 64 shooting deaths, 21 were the result of ambush-style attacks, the highest total in more than two decades. Eight multiple shooting death incidents claimed the lives of 20 officers in 2016, the highest number in a single year since 1932. Those included five officers killed in ambush attacks in Dallas, Tex. and three in Baton Rouge, LA.
Of the 64 fatal shootings nine were during attempted arrests, two during burglaries, two involved custody of prisoners, five involved demonstrations, three were other disturbances, 14 were domestic incidents, two were related to drugs.
Prior to 2016, traffic fatalities were the number one cause of officer fatalities in 15 of the last 20 years.
First page of the 2016 Marinette county Sheriff's Department annual report shows Sauve swearing in his two newest officers, Brandon Erdman and Karl Goerlinger.
Final page is a tribute to Donald A. Witt, who passed away on April 29, 2016. Witt was Sheriff of Marinette County from 1965 to 1971, and served many years after that on Marinette County Board. He served in the United States navy during World War II and witnessed the signing of the Peace Treaty with Japan in Tokyo Bay Sept. 2, 1945.
Supervisors were given time for questions and comments after Sauve completed his oral report at the Feb. 28 meeting.
Supervisor Dennis Marcely commended the Sheriff's Department and the report, and commented that County Board is responsible for its support and must share Sauve's concerns about the jail overcrowding, staffing problems and sending juveniles to a facility six counties away.
Supervisor Gilbert Engel also complimented Sauve on the job he has been doing and agreed as to jail staff, "We need to compensate people fairly."
He complimented Sauve on the number of programs at the jail, and expressed hope they will continue despite departure of Education and Programs Corrections Officer Grant Kuehnl, who left that position to accept a better paying job as fraud investigator with the county's Department of Health and Human Services.
"Without those types of programs, people who go to jail just learn how to become better criminals, or how to become more angry," Engel declared. He said New York City has begun keeping its jail population down by intervening rather than simply sending people to jail.
Asked about the problem with jail pay and staffing, Sauve said in 2008 there were 110 applicants for a corrections officer position. Since Act 10 was passed in 2010 (removing civilian jailer positions from union eligibility) the corrections officer jobs in the jail are no longer looked on as that great a job, Sauve said. He said for the vacancies in 2017, only 14 people applied, and of them, six did not show up to take the test, and six failed. "I have two that can be considered," he declared.
Law Enforcement Committee Chair Ken Keller said they have been hearing at their meetings about people leaving the jail positions in large numbers, and about the cost of training personnel only to have them leave.
Supervisor Don Pazynski asked if Sauve would consider setting up at a job fair or trade show to encourage young people to go into that field.
"I'd like to, but I'd be embarrassed to go there now with the compensation they offer," Sauve replied.
Supervisor Robert Holley noted the jail population is up 40 percent, and asked why.
"The state of your Sheriff's Department is strong. We go get "em. We do the best we can," Sauve said, adding that arrests are up 45 percent. He attributed much of the current problem to meth addiction. These people, he said, "...are wired...They're dangerous...Much worse than those on heroin."
Referring to the problem of low pay for corrections officers, Supervisor Al Mans asked if they were included in the Wipfli wage study a few years ago. Sauve said they were. A problem is that the study called for wage increases based on performance evaluations, but no system was ever set up for those evaluations and raises were not given.
"That just shows you what that was worth!" Mans declared.
Sauve agreed. He said he has been pleading with his jail staff to stay until the new wage study goes through.
As to need for a new jail, Keller said they were advised years ago the county cannot build itself out of a jail crowding problem. He also said it isn't just Marinette County, the shortage of job applicants has become quite widespread.
Sauve agreed, but added,"lucky for us, on the sworn officer side we are still able to recruit good people."
Supervisor Don Phillips said one problem is the time that has to be spent on paper work.
Sauve agreed,"it's a bit much." He said an officer may spend three or four hours doing paper work for a simple OWI.
There may be a resolution sooner rather than later for the problem of the civilian jailer pay schedule and other inequities in current county pay rates. At the County Board's Personnel Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 7, it was decided that Carlson-Dettman will present its initial wage/benefit study results to the County Board's Executive Committee on Wednesday, March 22, and to the full County Board at its meeting on Tuesday, March 28. Depending on how many questions/objections are raised the new pay schedule could go into effect as early as April.
Meanwhile, the Personnel Committee unanimously approved raises for 34 county employees who were hired after Jan. 1, 2014 at the minimum pay rate on the schedule for the job they hold, and have been caught there without a raise ever since.
On recommendation of Interim County Administrator John LeFebvre, the committee agreed without dissent that the affected employees, depending on how long they have held their current positions, should receive pay raises to bring them one third or two thirds of the way from the minimum to the mid-point on the Wipfli wage schedule. Finance Committee is being asked to determine how to pay for the $86,610.97 wage/benefit increase.
At the Personnel Committee meeting, Supervisor Russ Bauer asked if any of the raises on the list were going to civilian jailers. LeFebvre told him only one is. That person is the only jailer still caught in the pay freeze. All others hired to work in the jail after the Jan. 1, 2014 cutoff date have already received pay raises because they moved into new positions on the jail staff and were given new salaries for those positions based on experience, etc., LeFebvre said. The other 33 positions on the list will be getting raises in April to bring them one third or two thirds of the way to mid point, depending on how long they have worked for the county.
The remainder of the county's employee compensation issues likely will be resolved once the new pay schedules are adopted.
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