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Sutherland, Paullina face law enforcement woes

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SUTHERLAND - Mike Anderson, O'Brien County Sheriff, informed the Sutherland City Council last week that effective July 1 the O'Brien County Sheriff's Office will not renew the contract that the sheriff's office held with the City of Paullina since 1990 to do the city's law enforcement.

This decision would also affect the City of Sutherland.

Due to budget cuts and overtime issues, and the fact that two deputies had quit, Anderson said he would not be replacing the deputies or be renewing the contract with the City of Paullina. According to Anderson, that would leave only two or three deputies on duty for the whole county at one time.

It was the hope of the Sutherland City Council to continue with having only one full-time officer and to use the sheriff's office to help fill in when needed.

The Sheriff's department would assist the local police in a life-threatening emergency, but will no longer send deputies on patrols through the southern part of the county and to the communities of Sutherland, Calumet and Paullina.

Anderson also staid that he could not guarantee any of his deputies could respond to assist any officer in the southern part of the county due to the demands of his office (serving papers, transporting prisoners, etc.), as his deputies may be in different parts of the county and may not be able to respond.

Currently, the cities of Paullina and Calumet have no local police force. Sutherland normally has two full-time officers but in a related note the Council accepted a letter of resignation from suspended Police Chief David Johannsen.

Johannsen was arrested last July and pleaded guilty to third-degree theft on Dec. 29. According to the criminal complaint, Johannsen was accused of selling stolen hogs and pocketing some of the money. The hogs belonged to Liberty Products Inc., where he worked, and were sold to Lynch Livestock in Primghar from July 2004 to July 2006.

Johannsen was placed on unpaid leave after his arrest.

On Feb. 9, Judge Nancy Whittenburg postponed Johannsen's sentencing it until March 23.

The City has since been patrolling with just one full-time officer.

Anderson informed the Council that is it is up to the mayors of each of this cities to provided police protection

The problem facing the City of Sutherland and the City of Paullina is finding qualified applicants to fill the new demands of officers.

"The younger generation likes their time off. They don't like to be on call. They're happy with just 40 hours. They're not like the old generation, nothing against the younger generation, but we got to face it. Having time off is the only thing we have to attract these officers to come here to work," explained Anderson.

Council members Steve Koch and Ken Nelson asked the Sheriff what option does the city have and asked for his recommendations. Anderson suggested that Sutherland and Paullina could use the example of the cities of Hartley and Sanborn. Those cities have two officers for each town and an additional officer who goes in between communities to fill out their schedules.

Anderson made the need for the cities to hire the new officers clear. In 2008, the O'Brien County Sheriff's Office had received 298 calls from residents in Sutherland and 415 in Paullina, according to Anderson.

Council member Bruce Engelke suggested that the council talk to the City of Paullina and Mayor Carolyn Rohrbaugh said that talks are currently under way.

Officer Nick Mazurek told the council that the hiring of one more officer for the city of Sutherland would solve the current problem. Mazurek has been the only full-time officer and has been providing the city with his outstanding service since the absence of another officer.

Besides his normal weekly hours, Mazurek has been on-call and been available for backup during hours while part-time officers were on patrol.

Mazurek informed the Council that he has helped the city while going through their employment problems but is getting burned out with constantly being on call. He stated that he was willing to buy out his contract with the city and move on if the city doesn't resolve the situation of hiring an additional officer. He also stated that he just wants to do what's best for the city.

The council agreed with Mazurek and commended him on his hard work during this difficult time for the city.

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