The current sheriff of Carlton county is Kelly Lake. Kelly was appointed sheriff last year after longtime former sheriff Kevin Mangan retired. She was unanimously voted in by the Carlton County Board after serving several years in the department.
Kelly commented on some of the big challenges facing the county, and number one is methamphetamine. “The one thing we’ve been trying to do is really educate the public — both youth and adults — on the dangers of meth and what we’re facing,” Kelly said, “because it does affect everyone. Even if you don’t ever use meth or know anybody who actually uses it, it affects the taxpayers and it affects the children, so it is a huge challenge for our community.”
Kelly added that the county is seeing an increase in property crimes, burglaries, assaults and other things that affect people in the community.
Kelly also commented on the status of the local jails in Carlton county. There has been an issue of overcrowding. Kelly feels that a big reason for this is the meth problem in Carlton county. “We have put together a committee of various people throughout the criminal justice system to look at the jail overcrowding issue.”
Currently, a county-wide facilities study is taking place to look not only at the jail, but also other areas in the county and their facility use. “We are looking at our needs in the future,” Kelly added.
The county board members realize that there is an overcrowding issue, and Kelly doesn’t see that going away anytime soon. “I am not recommending that we absolutely have to have a new jail, but we do need to look at it,” Kelly continued. “I don’t want to see people who need to be incarcerated let out in the public because we don’t have the jail space for them.”
Kelly concluded that they have looked at the cost of boarding out to other places, and that’s been high. “We need to weigh that with how much it would cost to build a new jail. Could we possibly add on to our current jail? That may be an option also.”
In Carlton county, relationships with the local police departments is important. Kelly feels there is a very good working relationship with all of the agencies in the county and also the surrounding counties. “We share information among agencies, and that’s very important,” she said. “It’s so important for all the agencies to share information, and we are very good at doing that with all agencies within the county.”
As for staffing the Sheriff’s department, Kelly noted that ideally, she would like to see more officers patrolling the street. “It’s going to come down to budget. I try to look at the staff we have and allocate them as efficiently as I can.”
Fond du Lac’s director of law enforcement Wally Dupuis is also on the ballot for Carlton County Sheriff. Wally is a former Cloquet police officer and was named the Fond du Lac Police Department’s director of law enforcement in September 2004.
According to Wally, the number one operational priority for the sheriff is crime prevention — placing the highest value of preservation on human life. Along with that, he feels that it is important to involve the community in the delivery of the services that are provided, and be accountable.
Like Kelly Lake, Wally has recognized that methamphetamine is a serious problem, and its use is growing at an alarming rate, not only in Carlton county but also across the nation. “Law enforcement is faced with disrupting this drug market,” Wally said. “First responders and firefighters are faced with dangerous situations when responding to unknown on-scene laboratories. Local agencies are faced with exorbitant cleanup costs.”
Wally feels that it is important to educate police officials in early meth lab identification. “Providing community education will increase awareness of the problem,” Wally added, “thereby making it more likely that neighborhoods will report suspicious activity.”
Forming partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, community organizations and community members is also important to Wally. In addition, he would also like to see regulatory laws enacted that will limit the purchase amount of precursors. “This approach would require involvement from all levels of government. It is these types of initiatives that will relieve the pressure on law enforcement and county government for enforcement, incarceration and cleanup.”
Wally also had some views on the overcrowded jail issue. He would like to address the issue of the ever-increasing cost to board prisoners outside the area with a plan to reduce the number of people incarcerated.
“This plan would include working with the many areas of the justice system including courts, county attorneys, and probation, and enlisting the aid of local governments, the community and community service providers,” Wally shared. “Collaboration with such agencies for the development of diversion/rehabilitation programs that would reduce the length of jail incarceration and the re-offender rates would need to be initiated.”
Wally realizes that this initiative would require comprehensive strategic planning and collaboration. “It would ultimately lead to a reduction in inmate/jail population rates. Thereby, reducing the number of people incarcerated, and ultimately, lowering the cost associated with boarding prisoners,” Wally added.
Wally concluded by sharing that the sheriff must maintain a commitment to professionalism and a high standard of integrity. “This person must create partnerships between law enforcement, the citizens and the community,” Wally concluded. “We must also develop initiatives that maintain and enhance current programs, and address the increasing crime problems, financial shortfalls, and community concerns.”