Wilkening attends national sheriffs’ conference
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening recently traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to attend the National Sheriffs’ Association annual conference.
The six-day event included training sessions and meetings with sheriffs from around the U.S.
“There are sheriffs from all over the United States that come to this, from California to Florida,” Wilkening said. “It’s good to visit with them and see what they are doing. It was my first one, and it was good to network with the other sheriffs from around the country.”
Wilkening attended the conference as part of his responsibilities as president of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.
“Part of my duties as president include attending a national conference,” he explained. “They had one in Washington, D.C., that I couldn’t attend, and then this one in Charlotte.”
The conference provided Wilkening with the opportunity to meet and learn from other sheriffs while representing the state association.
“One of the things that myself and the assistant executive director did was sit in classes,” Wilkening said. “We were there not only to learn stuff, but also to see if there are any presenters that we could bring back or ask to come to Minnesota and present to the rest of the sheriffs in the state at our state conference.”
The conference included sessions on a variety of topics and highlighted many issues sheriffs and law enforcement officers across the nation are facing.
“They had a lot of good training on a lot of subjects — jail, managing employees, just different things like that — and they talked about different trends that are going on in the country,” Wilkening said.
While Wilkening enjoyed his time at the conference, he said the majority of the information presented at the event was about topics with which the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association was already familiar. He credited the state with a high level of training for law enforcement officers.
“What we have for training and what we’re doing — we are, in a lot of regards, ahead of a lot of places in the nation,” Wilkening said. “Some of the training that they were putting on down at the national, we’ve already had up here.”
A growing trend seen among law enforcement officers is “sovereign citizens,” a movement found in many states including areas of Minnesota.
“Sovereign citizens are people that don’t agree with the government and the structure of the government. They almost try to form their own government,” Wilkening explained. “That’s something that some of the sheriffs in Minnesota are dealing with. They are also starting to deal with that in some of the other states and in the southern states.”
Discussion also took place at the conference on jail inmates’ rights and jail inmates with mental health problems.
“We’re not the only state that is having problems because they are holding mentally ill people in jail when they should be somewhere else,” he said. “That is a national thing.”
Wilkening attributed the quality of the Minnesota corrections system to the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the guidelines it gives to jails and correctional facilities.
“Minnesota, we’re governed pretty strictly by the Department of Corrections, but there are some places that don’t have that,” Wilkening said. “They run rather loosely, but ours is run very well.”
There was also talk at the conference of developing a national broadband project to aid communication between police officers and emergency responders in times of crisis. In a national disaster, for example, public systems are often overloaded, and it’s therefore difficult for responders to communicate with others.
“What they are trying to do is build a nationwide law enforcement and first responders broadband system that only we would be on,” Wilkening said. “I know Minnesota is in the process of trying to get going with that, but it’s going to be a long process.”