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Sheriff talks to Jackson County Commissioners about law enforcement

JACKSON -- Jackson County Sheriff Roger Hawkinson addressed his commissioners Tuesday morning, bringing them up to speed on talks between the city and county regarding a possible contract for sheriff's office services if the Jackson Police Department is disbanded.

Last week, the Jackson City Council discussed a draft contract as a way of savings funds in the probable event that Local Government Aid (LGA) is cut further. According to Jackson City Adminstrator Patrick Christopherson, the city and county have been talking for several months about ways to combine a variety of services to save money.

"We're looking at four main areas -- personnel, budget, the contract and building needs," Hawkinson explained Tuesday.

He reiterated his words from last week's city meeting, reminding those present that "the city of Jackson is pushing this. They came to me."

If the Jackson Police Department were to be disbanded and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office contracted with the city for law enforcement, there would be some building needs that would need addressing, Hawkinson told the commissioners. Changes would need to be made in both evidence and storage, a window for walk-ins may have to be added and more garage space would be needed, he said.

"Talks are still proceeding," he stated, adding that if those opposed to the idea approach him for discussion, he will direct them to the city administration for comment.

Commissioner Bill Tusa asked if taking on the city of Jackson law enforcement would affect the county law enforcement in any way.

"I'd need staff to fill the contracted hours," Hawkinson stated, adding that some learning would have to be done by deputies regarding city ordinances.

"If it does go through, hopefully it would be a smooth transition," he stated.

According to Jackson County Attorney Robert O'Connor, a contract with the county for law enforcement would not change the way cases would be prosecuted.

"The city attorney handles prosecution of city ordinances and misdemeanors and certain targeted gross misdemeanors," O'Connor explained.

The county office handles all felonies, which are under county jurisdiction by statute.

"At this point, I don't see any cost impact to my office," O'Connor stated.

Hawkinson said he has developed a Power Point presentation for the committee in charge of drafting the contract, and the possibility of a public hearing has been discussed.

The Jackson Police department employs seven full-time and three part-time officers, which includes Chief Tony Legnani, a sergeant and an investigator, as well as two records technicians.

According to the April 4 through 10 police log, the Jackson Police Department responded to or investigated a variety of calls in a one-week time period that ranged from domestic disputes to a first-degree arson arrest to an animal trapped in a window well. Marijuana, stolen bikes, car crashes and suspicious person calls were handled, traffic violations were cited and at least two people that week were arrested for driving while impaired.