By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN In an update to the Delano City Council Tuesday night, Sheirff Joe Hagerty said there are 82,000 hours per year of contracted law enforcement service provided by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office between 13 cities the sheriff’s office contracts with.
There are 16 cities in the county, but three have their own police departments.
The county began contracting with communities for law enforcement service in 1969, with Cokato being the first city to partner with the sheriff’s office in this capacity. Delano and Waverly came on shortly after, and other cities soon followed suit.
“It’s really been a benefit to the county, county-wide,” Hagerty said. “We’ve really established a lot of relationships even though the people in my position change.”
Hagerty said the system in place for providing law enforcement in Wright County works.
“We try to localize it,” he said. “We break our county into six districts.”
He said each of the six districts has a sergeant, or “police chief,” that corresponds with the cities within each district.
Wright County has a total population of about 126,000 people, Hagerty said. He oversees a 250-member sheriff’s office, with about 140 of those staff members being licensed deputies.
In addition to the six districts, the county is also divided into quadrants for 24-hour police coverage, broken into three eight-hour shifts per day.
Hagerty said the rates for contracting services from the Wright County Sheriff’s Office are determined every two years, with cities presently paying $60.50 per hour. Hagerty said this amount is about a 1.5 percent increase over last year’s amount of $59.75 per hour.
Delano contracts for two eight-hour shifts per day, in addition to having a school resource officer. The regular contracted hours total 5,840 hours of coverage per year within the community. This equals a $353,320 public safety cost to the City of Delano.
Montrose contracts for eight hours of coverage per day from the sheriff’s office, for a total of 2,920 hours of coverage per year. This equals a $176,660 public safety cost to the City of Montrose.
The quadrant coverage by the sheriff’s office ensures that emergencies are responded to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We also have a real good working relationship with West Hennepin Public Safety,” Hagerty said. “Quite frankly, criminals don’t stop at the county line.”
Hagerty also compared the costs of contracting with the sheriff’s office versus the city having its own police department. He said, for a community the size of Delano, an annual police department budget could be around $1.5 or $2 million dollars, plus attorney’s fees.
Specifically in Delano, Hagerty noted a recent search warrant that led to the discovery of heroin.
“Heroin is something we are seeing again in Wright County,” Hagerty said. “Haven’t seen it for years, probably since the ‘70s.”
He also cited heroin as the cause of an overdose death in Silver Creek Township two years ago. He said the sheriff’s office also conficated 2 pounds of heroine from the Annandale area earlier this year, and had a recent case in Otsego involving the drug.
“You don’t want this in your neighborhoods, believe me,” Hagerty said. “We do what we can to try to mitigate that. Either get those folks out of there or get them cleaned up. We have properties like that throughout the county.”
Hagerty said it becomes a quality of life issue and that no one wants it next door to them.
In the Wright County Jail, Hagerty said the county is running an averge jail population of about 120-125 inmates.
“The average stay is about 11 days,” Hagerty said. “A lot of them are in for substance abuse. It’s either alcohol, which leads to domestics or DWI crashes, and a lot of chemical abuse, as well.”
The sheriff said his office has noted the “degree of mental illness” has increased, and that people calling and requesting welfare checks is becoming more common.
“We can cure a lot of ills before they get out of hand,” he said.
Hagerty said the sheriff’s office coordinates a “citizens academy” for people to come in and obtain a better understanding of how the sheriff’s office operates.
“We’ve run three of them in the past two years,” he said.
Anyone 18 years and older can participate, and Hagerty said class sizes are around 15-20 people.
“They get to shoot our guns and drive our squads, all in a controlled setting,” he said. “It really gives people an understanding of what we’re doing.”
The sheriff’s office is also planning an open house this summer or next summer.
Watch for more Delano-specific information from Hagerty in Monday's Delano Herald Journal.