In the Know column: A look into the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, past and present
I am not surprised when people don’t really know a lot about the sheriff’s office even though Douglas County has had a sheriff since 1866.
I have lived in Douglas County for over 50 years. I have passed by many of the same businesses for all of those years, and truth be told, I don’t really know a lot about their history or exactly what they do inside the walls of the building. I think that’s the way it is for most people. We only have so much time so we concentrate on our families, our own jobs or businesses. Because of that, I am not surprised when people don’t really know a lot about the sheriff’s office even though Douglas County has had a sheriff since 1866. I am the 24th Douglas County sheriff. I have 35 years with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and started my fifth term as sheriff a few weeks ago, but if Bennie Urness was still alive, he might call me a rookie. Bennie Urness is the longest serving Douglas County sheriff with 28 years (1931-1958). His son, Howard Urness, followed Bennie and served as Douglas County sheriff for the next 16 years (1959-1974). Ole Urness served as Douglas County sheriff from 1877-1888, which means Douglas County had a “Sheriff Urness” for 56 years. The term length for sheriff is four years.
A lot has changed since 1866, and the sheriff’s office remains committed and dedicated to providing public safety services for the people of Douglas County. Through changes in statutes, technology and public expectations, the responsibilities of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have evolved to where they are today. When fully staffed, the sheriff’s office has 96 employees to provide public safety services. The different areas of service are: patrol, investigations, jail, dispatch/communications, civil process, court security, inmate transport, water patrol, snowmobile patrol, ATV patrol, school resource, records and administrative assistance. We have specialized teams that help us provide service as well. Some of the specialized areas include: SWAT Team, Dive/Rescue Team, Honor Guard and K-9 Unit.
The Douglas County Jail accounts for over 40% of our staff. Their job is to ensure the safety and security of the inmates and the facility itself. In doing this, correctional staff are also providing safety and security for our community. The jail has correctional officers, jail programmers, transport deputies, court security deputies (bailiffs), supervisors and administration to carry out the many functions and responsibilities of operating a jail.
Our dispatch/communications section provides radio, telephonic, paging and electronic communications for all law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services in Douglas County. Our dispatchers answer all 911 calls placed in Douglas County, which is around 2,500 calls per month. They also answer all business calls for our office. Dispatchers are multi-taskers and may still be on the phone while paging, entering information into our Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and communicating by radio with public safety responders.
Our records staff and administrative assistants help keep our office on task and orderly. Records serves as a historian for the sheriff’s office and Douglas County by making sure that all things handled by our office are properly and accurately documented.
We have investigators that investigate or assist with investigating all types of crimes that occur within Douglas County. One of those investigators specifically investigates allegations of public assistance fraud and two investigators only investigate narcotics crimes and violent crimes.
The most visible part of our office is patrol. Patrol deputies and supervisors patrol our roads, lakes, snowmobile trails and communities to keep everyone safe. Patrol is done to deter crimes or violations or to detect crimes or violations while they are occurring. Patrol deputies respond to a wide variety of calls for service throughout Douglas County and provide a variety of services to our community.
Next time you pass by a patrol car, the sheriff’s office, or the Douglas County Jail, I hope you feel like you know a little more about the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and how we serve you.
Troy Wolbersen is the Douglas County sheriff. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.