Readers Speak: Questions answered about the size of the sheriff’s office

By Roger Thompson, Undersheriff, Madison County Sheriff’s Office

Rumor and gossip are always more interesting than fact and truth. As cops, we unfortunately have to deal in fact and truth. We at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office believe in an informed public and that you deserve the best information in order to make the best decisions. I feel compelled to provide some of this information in response to a recent Letter to the Editor regarding your sheriff’s office. Print space limits how much we can answer but I hope this is a start.

When I first began working for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, only one deputy for the entire county worked the weekend days and was also responsible for feeding inmates in the jail. 911 dispatchers split their time between receiving calls and watching jail inmates. If you needed a deputy, one would have to wait until jail needs were accomplished. That situation led to multiple lawsuits that your tax dollars paid out since it was an indefensible position for Madison County to continue. The Madison County Commissioners and the public allowed us to increase our detention staff to alleviate this problem. What may have worked 15 to 20 years ago doesn’t work today.

We have a legal responsibility to staff and properly care for the county’s inmates in a professional and respectful manner and we have accomplished that. We must also have the staffing and equipment to investigate the crimes and incidents you report no matter how big or small the problem. Workload for your sheriff’s office and other emergency responders has gone up about 84 percent from seven years ago. Criminal investigations have gone up 70 percent. It is a trend that we don’t want to see but it is occurring. We all share the workload to cover you 24/7 but even deputies need time off for their families.

Your sheriff’s office purchases approximately two vehicles a year for the deputies. The vehicles are essentially the deputies’ offices. It is necessary for your officers to access mountainous terrains every month of the year, in all types of weather conditions. The all wheel drive Ford explorers serve this purpose and were cheaper to purchase this time around than Dodge or Chevrolets. We do have four Dodge Durangos that range from three to eight years old with 80,000 to 125,000 miles and they have served us well. Your deputies drive an average of 35,000 miles a year. We try to cover as much of the county as often as possible but we still would like to do more. We try to patrol the areas with more frequent complaints for the benefit of families to enjoy themselves but also try to cover the rural areas whenever possible. If you have ever taken your kids to a campground or picnic area with a raucous party next door, you know what I am talking about. Or worse yet, get run off the road by a drunk driver and your family won’t soon forget that experience.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is a member of the Madison County DUI Task Force where both enforcement and education are important components. We work in partnership with other task forces around Montana to keep the roadways safe for your family and friends. One day we hope Montana will no longer be number one for alcohol related crashes and deaths.

Sheriff Schenk and I welcome your questions. We strive to handle every complaint if we have the moral and legal ability to do so. We take seriously the financial and legal responsibilities that you have entrusted us with and think it’s only fair that we maintain the equipment purchased by your tax dollars. We have built a Sheriff’s Office we believe you should be proud of and can trust.

As you leave our office you will see a sign with our mission statement written on it, “The Mission of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office is to Serve and Protect Persons and Property in Madison County, State of Montana.”

I enjoy working here because of the sincere support the public shows us and of the high quality of our deputies and staff within the sheriff’s office.

The pride we feel extends to all of the Fire, Ambulance, Quick Response Units, Search and Rescue personnel and other first responders this county is blessed with.

We in Montana enjoy a quality of life that I would like to think your Sheriff’s Office shares in. The credit goes to you, the residents of Madison County who have made your life here. We at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work together with you so that crime prevention can be accomplished. We are the Madison County “public’s” Sheriff’s Office and we will keep it that way.

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