‘Today’s world is different than it used to be ... People don’t come out to fist fight; they come out with guns.’
Mille Lacs County Sheriff Don Lorge addressed the county board at the regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6 in regards to the department’s officer staffing level.
“Things have been brought up with the number of deputies,” said Lorge, referring to the addition of deputies when there was a breakdown in the cooperative agreement between the County and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal police. “We had to cover all of Vineland on our own and went up by seven deputies. I want to explain why it’s important to maintain those numbers.”
Lorge went on to say that the department currently has 19 deputies with several of those positions reallocated to different positions: one to boat and water, two to the drug task force, one to domestic violence and drug courts, and three positions absorbed into the road schedule.
Lorge said that the county is 682 square miles and emphasized the importance of having two deputies on the north end of the county and two on the south end. He added that the numbers of calls have increased by almost 6000 per year since 2002. “Having two deputies at each end of the county is for the safety of the officers and the community,” said Lorge. “If one deputy responds to a DWI, it can tie them up for three hours. And when we deal with the opposite sex in drug situations, there are lots of opportunities to bring up accusations that aren’t true if there aren’t two officers present.”
He said there has been a substantial increase in domestic assaults in the last few years. “We can’t do those calls with one deputy,” said Lorge. “We still cover Vineland (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation), as required by state statute; we go there quite often and back them (tribal police) up. We are responsible for the whole county and work with the other agencies from the various municipalities as well.”
Lorge said he appreciates the great working relationships within all of the jurisdictions within the county, including Vineland despite the pending lawsuit. “The boots on the ground where it counts is working well,” said Lorge.
Lorge added that he felt the local city departments are doing a great job and will give the county law enforcement back up when needed.
Mille Lacs County Commissioner Dave Oslin asked, “So with the manpower you have right now, are you satisfied with it?”
Lorge said that ideally he would like to see a daytime sergeant position but could incorporate that into an existing position for about $10,000 additionally.
“Today’s world is different than it used to be,” said Lorge. “People don’t come out to fist fight; they come out with guns.”
Lorge also addressed the political rally which happened over the weekend on Saturday, Oct. 10 and said the department is doubling manpower with the Minnesota State Patrol being “on speed dial.”
When questioned about the event, he said nothing is illegal about it but he was more concerned about the offsite happenings if opposing groups should show up, adding that the state will be monitoring the actual event and looking at potential fines for non-compliance. “They’re calling out Antifa and Black Lives Matters,” noted Lorge.