Sheriffs face the same problems nationwide

Sheriffs face the same problems nationwide

Sheriffs face the same problems nationwide

Sheriff Mike Allen had the opportunity this month to compare notes with sheriffs from across the country at the National Sheriff’s Institute he attended Sept. 18-22 in Colorado. What he found was that the challenges faced by law enforcement in Humboldt County are much the same as those faced in other jurisdictions.

Drug use:

Throughout the country, drug use and addiction continue to create a plethora of problems and are behind or connected to a majority of other crimes. “I can’t help thinking we have to get in front of this problem with kids,” Allen said. “It just doesn’t seem like anything else works.”

Allen said opioid abuse and heroin use both continue to see increases across the country. One presenter talked about a federal grant the National Sheriff’s Institute is going after. If successful, the grant would make it possible to offer Narcan at no cost to sheriff’s offices. Narcan is a treatment drug that can reverse opioid overdoses and potentially, save lives. 

Hiring and keeping

 good personnel:

Allen said the challenges of never being fully staffed and facing turn-over at HCSO seem to be pretty normal across the country. “We’re fortunate to have the good people that we do,” he said. Finding qualified individuals who want to serve in law enforcement and can pass a background check is becoming more difficult, Allen said.

Need for and lack of 

mental health resources:

Dealing with individuals who are mentally ill or facing mental crisis is something that was common to all the sheriffs he spoke to at the conference, said Allen. The lack of mental health resources, particularly in rural areas, was a challenge many sheriffs mentioned.  

“Nobody has beds [at inpatient facilities] and local law enforcement jurisdictions are being forced to deal with people suffering from mental illness and people in crisis,” said Allen. “While we’re there to try and help, we are not really the right place for people to get the help they need.”

Sheriffs from other parts of the country were also concerned about dealing with suicide and, particularly, teen suicide. With Winnemucca’s Zero Suicide Initiative, headed up by Sixth Judicial District,  Allen and other law enforcement and first responders in Winnemucca have come together with social service and mental health providers to try to increase availability and awareness of services. 

One challenge that was somewhat unique to Humboldt County was the amount of territory the sheriff’s office is responsible for covering. “Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office had the largest jurisdiction of any sheriff’s office there,” Allen said. “Other sheriffs asked how on earth we managed to cover that much territory.”