Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 21, 2004

Winsted police depts. seeks fourth officer

By Lynda Jensen

A growing population and rising drug and criminal activity is prompting the Winsted Police Department to ask for the addition of a fourth full-time officer.

The request was made to the council by Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich, Officer Danny Salo, and Officer Glen Strom during a presentation Tuesday.

The last time an officer was added to the department was in 1976, when the population of Winsted was 1,100, Henrich said.

At that time, the McLeod County Sheriff’s Department had three road deputies and a sheriff, Henrich said.

Now, in contrast, the sheriff’s office has 25 people on staff, including the sheriff, chief deputy, emergency service director, four sergeants, four detectives, and 14 road deputies, he said.

“We’re still with three officers,” Henrich said. The population of Winsted is 2,300; more than double of that before.

Drug activity is on the rise, Salo noted. “There’s been 16 different cases in the first five months (of this year),” he said. Five of those were felonies, he added.

The department does ask for help from the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force, but the task force itself is looking at short staffing, he said.

Salo noted that having only one officer on staff working on a drug case isn’t a good idea, even in the interest of officer safety, when he is pulled away by a different call.

Generally, about one officer per 500 people is considered the norm in the industry, but Henrich noted the number isn’t based on scientific information.

What is more scientific is a formula from the International Association of Police Chiefs – and according to the formula, Winsted should have six officers, two per eight-hour shifts, he noted.

The formula takes into account specific arrests and violations in relation to population.

For example, the formula calculates the number of “part one” (serious) crimes, including assaults, burglaries, sexual assaults, robberies, homicides, felony thefts, motor vehicle thefts, and arson.

Winsted had 58 “part one” arrests in 2003; mainly assaults and burglaries.

The formula also counts the number of “part two” (not as serious) offenses such as simple assaults, forgeries, fraud, theft (gross misdemeanors), vandalism, weapons calls, drug calls, DWIs, domestic cases, minor consumption, liquor complaints, and disorderly conducts

Winsted had 129 “part two” offenses in 2003, he said.

In addition, Winsted had 38 traffic accidents, and 2,725 general public calls for service, he said.

Add this up, and it amounts to a fourth officer that would be kept busy, he said.

Henrich also reported information he researched from the League of Minnesota Cities, which placed Winsted the seventh largest in a list of 39 cities with three-man departments.

If Winsted is upgraded to a four-man department, the city would still rank higher than 12 on the list of 29 for departments that size in the state, he said.

Henrich also researched cost. To add another officer would amount to $36,000 per year, taking into consideration insurance, training, and other costs.

The department is hopeful it can add the position before service suffers, which is not the case now, Salo said.

Henrich encouraged council members to bring questions to the next meeting.

It is hoped to add the position by next year, with the city’s budget reflecting the addition in the fall, Henrich said.

New clerk hired

Deb Boelter of the Delano area was hired as the city clerk-treasurer for an annual salary of $42,000.

She will replace outgoing clerk Betty Zachmann.

Boelter will be given a bonus to be included in her salary of $1,000 for completing training as a “certified municipal clerk” and $1,000 for completion of a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration.

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