Washington County Chair Responds to Sheriff

Now Don Kriefall, Washington County Board Chair, responds to Sheriff Schmidt’s column from the other day. This is an important discussion for the future of Washington County. Go read the whole thing on the Washington County Insider.

One of the initiatives discussed with Sheriff Schmidt was to offer to Washington County partners the ability to provide dispatch services for them at no cost. Funds saved by each municipality could then be earmarked to maintain or repair roads. As many municipalities had passed resolutions requesting a portion of the County sales tax, primarily due to the rising cost of roads, this would save those municipalities more than the amount of sales tax that they had requested.

Another initiative was to explore sharing a jail and circuit court with one or more county, Ozaukee and/or Waukesha. After the closing of the Lincoln Hills juvenile facility, one of the solutions offered by Governor Walker was to rehouse juvenile offenders in county jails contiguous to Milwaukee County. The initiative to share a jail/circuit court facility could provide several things;

  • The ability to create a court dedicated to prosecuting drug offenses,
  • The ability to share judges and allow caseloads to be more efficiently handled,
  • The ability to allocate District Attorneys to prosecute cases more efficiently.
  • The ability to repurpose each County Jail/Circuit Court and make them juvenile holding facilities and courts.

Another long term initiative would be to explore creating a metro sheriffs’ department. As this has been done effectively in other jurisdictions through the US (the Village of Richfield currently contracts with the Sheriffs’ office to provide police services) combining all police departments into a metro unit could provide the following;

  • The ability to eliminate the need for mutual aid pacts for major events,
  • All would fall under one umbrella for liability insurance and worker’s comp,
  • The ability to better allocate resources in a more timely fashion at major events,
  • No issues with who is in charge of any scene,
  • All local police officers would be hired by the Sheriff’s Department and assigned to their local communities.

As stated, these are some out-of-the-box solutions that could create efficiencies without negatively impacting services, and in most cases actually provide better services. I agree with Sheriff Schmidt that agencies that are too small struggle to meet the needs of the citizens they serve.

The population of Washington County is 135,000, 30,000 more than Green Bay, so I would challenge the assertion that it would be too big to be personal and responsive to the community.

Where I totally disagree is his perception that this is a political struggle. The constitutional authority delegated to a County Sheriff does not require a “fight” or an adversarial relationship with the County Board. It requires that we work together collaboratively to better serve the citizens of Washington County. We will continue to explore ways to provide the best possible services that positively impact the quality of life for the citizens of Washington County.