Steele County Sheriff’s Race 2022
In an effort to keep our readers as informed as possible about the upcoming election and the choices they are offered, we are asking the candidates of several races to weigh in on the issues.
That includes the race for Steele County Sheriff. Incumbent Sheriff Lon Thiele is facing challenger Darrin Helget, who is currently a deputy sheriff for the SCSO.
Every week through Nov. 2, we will publish the answer to a weekly question, designed just for the sheriff candidates. There will be a word limit; the only editing we’ll do is if the answer is too long.
We sincerely hope this is beneficial to you, our reader, about the issues affecting Steele County, where the candidates stand and how they may address those concerns.
Here's this week's question:
What is the biggest need of the Steele County Sheriff's Office right now, and what would you do to fill that need? (Answers were limited to 300 words.)
Steele County Deputy Darrin Helget: I’ve had the opportunity to address the concerns of employee retention in the Sheriff’s Office and finding a more resourceful use of our detention center. These are important issues to myself as well as community members and coworkers; I believe it starts with new leadership for Steele County. I’ve had numerous conversations with my coworkers and participated in a forum with the Steele County Licensed Peace Officers Local #110 bargaining unit, allowing me to gain the trust and support of coworkers. I’m honored that for the first time in the history of the Sheriff’s office, an endorsement by the bargaining unit was made in my favor.
New leadership will bring a fresh perspective to the sheriff’s office. I’m a believer in term limits for elected officials; too many terms tend to lead to complacency. The true needs of the office and ultimately public safety begin with a strong foundation and support from the staff. If the trust in leadership isn’t present, the motivation of staff suffers and ultimately this directly impacts public safety, thus affecting the community members. It affects the security and safety in the jail setting. I plan to cultivate a culture in which leadership is trusted and not only brings quality employees but retains them. This will be done, in part, by working side by side with them when shifts are short-staffed. Not just focusing on the administrative duties, but continuing to work side by side patrolling, handling, and assisting on calls. I plan to promote an environment that rewards and acknowledges the exemplary work done by staff. The mental health of staff has been addressed as a concern; I acknowledge the importance of a healthy work environment. I plan to work on a mentorship program for our staff, giving them a healthy outlet for their concerns.
Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele: Incidents across the nation by law enforcement agencies have highlighted issues such as use of force, job performances, or complaints as some of the ongoing challenges.
Body-worn cameras have been viewed as one way to address these challenges and improve law enforcement practice more generally. Body-worn cameras may result in better transparency and accountability and may improve law enforcement legitimacy. The body cameras may also result in higher rates of citizen compliance to officer commands during encounters and fewer complaints lodged against law enforcement.
Before purchasing body worn cameras, research needs to be completed. A body camera system that works for one agency, may not be the correct fit for another. The SCSO already has squad cameras. In field testing, there needs to be compatibility with current squad equipment and cameras. This would reduce the costs of the entire matrix for body cameras.
I’m always searching for ways to reduce the SCSO budget or burden to the taxpayer. Due to the costs associated, and the changing technology, I’ve researched grants to assist paying for the body cameras. Although there may be grant dollars coming, it appears to be lagging with legislature.
For that reason, I have already budgeted an amount to purchase body cameras in the 2023 budget year.
Another need facing the SCSO is squad car production. Law enforcement agencies across the state, including the SCSO, are finding it difficult to replace squad cars.
Working relationships with other law enforcement agencies is a necessity too. The SCSO has great working relationships with other law enforcement agencies and that needs to continue.
Building our future leaders with continued leadership training. The SCSO constantly strives to create future leaders within its ranks. For the last 6 years the SCSO has provided leadership courses and training, at no costs to all staff.