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Hubbard County to study law enforcement costs

HubbardCountyLawEnforcementCenter2022.jpg
Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center
Enterprise file photo
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The Hubbard County Board will have a greater policy discussion later this month about law enforcement and its impact on the county’s budget, including the county attorney, probation and social services.

In August, the Hubbard County Board reluctantly accepted a $125,000 DUI enforcement state grant, with the caveat that the new position is contingent upon grant funding. If the grant goes away, so does the job.

On Tuesday, they officially signed the grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The competitive grant is applied for annually, according to Aukes. The funding started Oct. 1, as did the deputy.

Aukes said the grant stipulates that the DUI officer averages one “contact” per hour per shift, meaning the officer makes a traffic stop for speeding, distracted driving and other forms of unsafe driving.

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“That can be a warning,” Aukes added. “I want you to know my staff issue far more warnings than they do actually written citations or arrests.”

He stated that “there’s absolutely zero tolerance for the impaired driving. If someone’s drunk or high on drugs and they’re driving, they’re going to go to jail. That’s just the way it is. It just has to be that way. That’s what kills people on the highways. That’s what we’re there for.”

When asked, Aukes said the sheriff’s office there have been a 100 more DUI arrests compared to last year. He estimated there have been about 300 of these arrests in 2022.

What is sustainable?

County commissioner David De La Hunt asked if a 50% increase was sustainable financially.

“It’s more than just your department. It also goes deeper countywide than that. As we’ve seen, the repercussions of the expense that that entails when the jail is full, we have a greater discussion on where our policy is going to lie on that,” he said. Additional arrests mean extra work for the county attorney, for example.

Aukes doesn’t anticipate a 50% increase every year, saying it's physically impossible. There’s not enough time in the day nor enough officers to create that much activity, he said. He cited new, young officers working night shifts as the main cause for the increase.

Pointing to the full jail and proposed $1 million levy increase in the sheriff’s 2023 budget, De La Hunt said there are budget constraints and “that has to translate into an enforcement policy.”

READ MORE ABOUT THE COUNTY JAIL DEFICIT:
The Hubbard County Jail is at full capacity. Instead of needing $6 million of levy dollars to operate the jail, County Administrator Jeff Cadwell said it now costs $7.1 million.

Aukes replied, “There is no bending when it comes to keeping the roads safe.”

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Deputies will continue to arrest impaired drivers, he said, adding the average daily population of the county jail is 70. “There’s still room in our jail.”

De La Hunt said he supports law enforcement, but the county board must balance both the budget and public safety. “Where is that happy medium?” he asked. “There’s not an unlimited supply of money.”

Aukes reiterated, “There’s no way I’m going to ask my staff to loosen up on DUI arrests.”

County Administrator Jeff Cadwell said the county attorney requested a general government committee meeting about this issue. The next available date is Oct. 18.

Jail overflow not in budget

Board chair Ted Van Kempen asked, should the county need to ship inmates to other county jails, did the sheriff have that budgeted.

Aukes said he did not since he doesn’t foresee that happening.

County commissioner Char Christenson asked, “If it’s increased 100 and we’re not done with the year yet, how come you don’t see it increasing in the years after that we might have to house our inmates somewhere else?”

Aukes again said new, young officers working nights are making more arrests. “There’s no way these officers can get 200 DUIs every year. They’re responsible for other calls.”

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Preventative action

De La Hunt also wants a discussion about preventative measures, “so we don’t have the expense of filling our jail but we’re still keeping impaired drivers off the road.”

Possibly, Aukes said, noting that was not in his wheelhouse. He said Hubbard in Prevention has billboards and flyers.

Van Kempen asked if there are a lot of repeat offenders.

“Yes,” Aukes said.

“I think that’s a lot of the problem with it,” Van Kempen said.

Aukes said they are arresting people on probation so they are held in jail longer.

County commissioner Tom Krueger asked how long is a typical stay in jail.

It depends, Aukes said. A first-time DUI offender will be released when they are sober. If it’s a gross misdemeanor or felony arrest, they are held for court where a judge releases them on their own or sets bail. If on probation, the inmate may be held.

Part of the problem, Aukes continued, is that it takes six months to receive blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul. If the judge sets a high bail, then that inmate will stay in jail that whole time, Aukes said.

County commissioner Dan Stacey asked whether breathalyzer or BAC tests were more common.

“Eighty-two percent of our arrests are from drugs or drug-DUIs,” Aukes replied, which requires blood tests. “It’s a huge number. It’s unheard of, but that’s what we’re dealing with.”

RELATED ARTICLES:
Here are two perspectives on the Ninth District Court’s Sept. 13 ruling about a disputed road easement in Hubbard County. Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke were the plaintiffs, while County Sheriff Cory Aukes and County Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier were the defendants.”

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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