Who will you pick?

Q&A with Dunn County Sheriff Candidates

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Question: What do you see as the major challenges facing the Sheriff’s Dept. in 2014 and beyond?

COKER: The major challenges facing the Sheriff’s Department begin with the rapid and continually increasing demand for law enforcement services.  Calls to the Sheriff’s Department doubled from 2012 to 2013. The number of calls in the first six months of 2014 indicated that the demand for services will double once again.  These numbers represent the growing challenges of increased drug activity, DUIs and associated traffic issues, domestic disputes, etc.  All of which are directly related to the increase in the population.  This requires adding additional personnel to the department to keep up with the work load. I have requested, and been approved, three additional deputy positions for 2015. However, this creates an addition challenge of locating, recruiting and hiring qualified Personnel.  I am committed to hiring only individuals that meet the high standard of character and integrity that I have set for our department. I will not lower these standards just to get a “warm body” on the street.  I am going to continue to hire only the best.  But hiring highly qualified personnel is only part of the challenge.  Once hired, where are they going to live?  Affordable housing continues to be a major challenge for Dunn County.  We are currently able to assist newly hired personnel by temporarily placing them at the Dunn County Lodge crew camp operated by Target Logistics.  We have been able to fund this with Housing Assistance Grant funds that I was able to acquire through the Criminal Justice Oil Impact grants last year. But this is only a temporary fix and we must to continue to explore solutions to the problem.  I am confident that I am the candidate that is capable of meeting these challenges.

LAROCQUE: I believe the relationships between the sheriff’s office and other agencies, including the District Attorney’s Office, Public Trust needs to be repaired. Bridges need to be crossed, not burned and that the county needs a sheriff who can build relationships, collaborate, take criticism and restore the agency to the dignity it deserves. I also believe safety, as well as communication and collaboration. It is important that each and every law enforcement agency share resources. Without that, we are going to harm and endanger our officers. Credibility, honesty and pride need to be established amongst the sheriff’s office employees.  Credibility and honesty is what is expected by the public. What is also needed is a strict drug enforcement policy – with drugs being a cause of crime in Dunn County, it has gotten far worse and needs to be addressed.

Q: What are your personal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being the Sheriff of this county?

COKER: My greatest strengths are my extensive and diverse experience, education, and training. I have been a licensed Peace Officer for 27 years. I have extensive street experience having been both a police officer and deputy sheriff.  I have been a patrol officer, a tactical officer, a Public safety diver, and a law enforcement trainer. I have extensive experience policing in hostile environments both domestically and internationally.  I have numerous law enforcement commendations. I have a proven track record as a law enforcement administrator and leader and have been in leadership and administrative roles for over half of my career.  I started a police department from scratch in 1996 and have extensive administrative specific formal training.  I am a graduate of the FBI National Academy and have a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. I am a POST certified Instructor and have extensive law enforcement training experience.  I have hundreds of hours of teaching experience and taught Law Enforcement Ethics at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy for several years. If I could identify a weakness it would be not being from the area- but given the current oil boom- most of the people we are policing are not from the area either.  I am confident that my strengths far outweigh my weakness which makes me the most qualified to be the Sheriff of this vastly growing community.

LAROCQUE: As Sheriff you are going to be confronted with tough decisions. If they want the sheriff’s office to continue the way it has, the decision is easy and the choice is the sitting sheriff. If they want change, the option is me. I have the experience and the qualifications. We must improve the image of the sheriff’s department and Dunn County. I will bring new and innovative ideas. I pledge no favoritism, no retaliation and start from “a good clean slate.” I am urging people to vote for me due to my experience and qualifications. I am running on the record of even, equal and decent treatment to each and every citizen that we contact. I will provide leadership and direction to good people who do the job properly. You have choices and I respect your choice. I respect the will of the people. I will take on issues related to drugs, traffic. People want a person to represent the office of the sheriff and law enforcement now and into the future in Dunn County. “I believe I am that person.” I want to do the sheriff’s job because I am committed to Dunn County and the people’s vote will be important to me this year as well as elections in the years to come. I plan to take this department a long way into the future. I am here for the long haul. My experience gives me an advantage.

 

Q: The Number One complaint we hear is “traffic” in Dunn County and aggressive driving. How would your administration assist the motoring public with this problem?

COKER: Statistics reflect that traffic related complaints are the number one issue for Dunn County.  Traffic related incidents in 2013 accounted for 1,083 calls.  During the first six months of this year (2014) these same traffic related incidents have generated 1,331 calls.  If the numbers continue at this rate there will be a 146 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.  These calls represent traffic accidents, reckless driving reports and reported traffic hazards. In addition, Sheriff’s Department personnel conducted 3,032 traffic stops in 2013.  2,951 traffic stops were made during the first six months of this year (2014).  This is a direct result of our proactive traffic enforcement.  The best way to combat the traffic problems is to continue with the consistent, proactive traffic enforcement, along with increased numbers of qualified deputies on the road as outlined in my budget for 2015.
LAROCQUE: The sheriff has many duties and cannot do them all himself. He must have staff, policies and procedures in the organization to carry out those responsibilities. I want to tap into the people who are ready, willing and able to help make Dunn County safer. I will work with the Highway Patrol for increased presence on the state highways to free up my deputies to better patrol the county roads.

Q: In conjunction with the preceding question, this past Fall, the States Attorney announced a Zero Tolerance Drug & DUI enforcement policy. How do you see the Sheriff’s Dept.’s role in that process?

COKER: I embrace the zero tolerance policy whole heartedly.  The Sheriff’s Department has a specific role in the process by being the first to make contact with the violator.  If the evidence indicates that the individual is impaired it is our duty to make an arrest-period!  That being said, the individual is always presumed innocent until proven guilty.  It is the role of the Sheriff’s Department to present the case to the State’s Attorney’s office for review and consideration for prosecution.  It is the role of the State’s Attorney to decide if and how to proceed with the case.  Finally, if the case proceeds to court it is up to a judge or jury to determine the final outcome. Every citizen is entitled to their day in court.  The role of the Sheriff’s Department is to protect the citizens of Dunn County, including the violator, and to keep the roads safe and free from drunk drivers as best we can.  This means Zero Tolerance for impaired driving!

LAROCQUE: The Sheriff’s Office will have the major role in the enforcement of the drug and DUI offences within Dunn County. I will work with the State Patrol, BCI and when needed with the US Drug Enforcement Agency for enhanced enforcement.

Q: There have been members of the public who view the Sheriff’s Dept. as a “rural” policing agency. Do you agree that Deputies need to “stay on the scorria” and off the pavement?

COKER: Just five short years ago, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department consisted of the Sheriff and two deputies.  Call volume allowed for many hours to patrol the back roads of rural Dunn County.  A deputy could even frequently stop and visit with the public.  Fast forward to today- There are currently 13 deputies; which is soon to increase to 16.  The volume of calls doubled last year and are on track to double again.  As I have previously stated, the increased demand for law enforcement services dictates where we are needed.  Patrolling “off the pavement” is an issue and is being done whenever possible.  With over 1000 miles of county roads to patrol it is very possible that the public may believe that deputies are never on the gravel.  With that many miles of road, just because they may not be seen does not mean that they are not out there.  However, current call volumes leave less and less time to devote to patrol and more time just going from one call to the next.  Additionally, it would be counterproductive to patrol out into areas that have not generated any calls for service in months or even years and puts the deputies in a position to have a greater response time back to areas that are consistently generating the calls for service. I have been told that pervious administrations have attempted to dictate schedules as to how many hours a deputy can spend in certain areas of the county; such as 8 hours on the gravel and four on the pavement.  The current reality is that the calls for services dictates where the deputies need to be.  The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department is the chief law enforcement agency in Dunn County and the Sheriff is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer.   We take the lead in any and all law enforcement or public safety issues.  We respond to where we are dispatched!

LAROCQUE: The Sheriff’s Department is responsible for Dunn County and doesn’t have the luxury to pick and choose what areas to patrol or not patrol — failure to provide services county-wide would be dereliction of duty.

Q: How do you see the Sheriff’s Dept.’s role in conjunction with the North Dakota Highway Patrol and Killdeer Police Dept.?

COKER: Again, the Sheriff’s Department is the chief Law enforcement agency of the county. Our department has a responsibility to be a role model for those other agencies operating in Dunn County.  Each of these agencies, such as the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Killdeer Police Department have their own specific roles and mission.  However, it is the ultimate responsibility of the Sheriff’s Department to set the culture and tone of the law enforcement in Dunn County and to assist whenever and with whatever resources needed.  When I first took office last year, I made it very clear that it was my goal that the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department become the best that it possible could be and that I wanted personnel from surrounding law enforcement agencies to “want to be us”.  That is exactly what is happening.  I will continue to assist and mentor personnel of both of these agencies whenever request and always be available to assist in the accomplishment of our joint mission – to protect and serve.  I am confident that I am the candidate to ensure that the relationships with these agencies will continue and grow.

LAROCQUE: To have good professional law enforcement in the county, we must work together to provide that. To do so would enhance our law enforcement presence and resources for the county.

Q: Do you perceive any staffing shortfalls in the Sheriff’s Dept. and, if so, what are your plans to deal with that for 2014-15?

COKER: Again, as I have previously stated, I have requested, and been approved, three additional deputy positions for 2015 to keep up with the increased volume of calls for service.  I am adding one position to each squad to augment the staffing.  First and Second squads are dedicated to patrol duties.  Each squad has a Sergeant and four deputies; two day shift officers and two night shift officers.  Third squad is headed by our Detective Sergeant and contains personnel dedicated to special assignments.  These are Truck Enforcement, K-9, 911 coordinator and the 24/7 program. Each squad will receive one additional deputy in 2015.  I must add that I am very grateful to the current Dunn County Commission for their continued support of the Sheriff’s Department and its operations.  The commission has been very generous and supportive of the department since I have taken office and has been very receptive to the professional advice that I have given and have been able to support with verifiable information.  This is another reason that I believe that I am more qualified to be Sheriff of Dunn County.

LAROCQUE: Staffing will always be a problem.  When there are higher paying job to be had in the county, competition for the qualified will be great.  I believe that working with the county commissioners and the citizens of the county to help address this issue is the way to solving it.

Q: What is your view of pro-active narcotics interdiction as it relates to traffic enforcement and routine calls for service?

COKER: Officers should always be vigilant while contacting the public for any indications of narcotics activity.  Numerous drug cases have developed from simple traffic stops or routine calls.  It is my intention to keep the personnel of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department adequately trained in the recognition and interdiction skills needed in this drug pervasive environment.  There are drugs in Dunn County. Last year our Detective was awarded the Drug Buster Commendation for the successful results of an undercover narcotics operation, with disregard to personal safety, which resulted in the arrest of a serious narcotics criminal.  It is my intention to combat this problem by continuing to be pro-active in narcotics enforcement.  Our Detective division is taking the lead in this battle, in concert with the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation, and in cooperation with surrounding law enforcement agencies.  I have cross deputized several officers of bordering counties to facilitate the eradication of illicit narcotics activity in Dunn County.  You can help combat the drug problems in Dunn County by keeping me as your Sheriff.

LAROCQUE: I am a big believer in training, training and training. The better trained force you have the better enforcement you will have. With guidance and solid policies within the Department for aggressive enforcement of these issues.

Q: The Sheriff’s Dept. now has appointed a full time detective’s position. Will that situation stay in place for the future?

COKER: Absolutely!   I have, and intend to continue, the expansion of this position into an entire division within the Sheriff’s Department.  The primary responsibilities of the Detective position are narcotics investigations, major crimes, and continued investigations.  The current Detective position is also the Sergeant and supervisor of Third Squad.  As I previously stated, Last year our Detective was awarded the Drug Buster Commendation for the successful results of an undercover narcotics operation, with disregard to personal safety, which resulted in the arrest of a serious narcotics criminal. The continued growth of Dunn County will inevitably be followed by continued criminal activity associated with this growth.  I intend to keep the Sheriff’s Department “in front of” this increase in criminal activity. Third squad is also responsible for the truck enforcement division, the 911 coordinator’s position, the 24/7 program, and all other “special assignments” associated with the operation of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department. I am the only candidate who has publicly committed to insure that this will continue.

LAROCQUE: This is a position that will be well utilized in the department. Cases that need to be followed up on will be more timely handled. This position, with a trained staff member, will only enhance service to victims of crime. I believe the justification is there for the position.

Q: Do any training or equipment issues exist and, if so, how do you intend to address them?

COKER: The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department has the most current and state of the art equipment available to law enforcement thanks to the grant funding of the Criminal Justice Oil Impact funding grant dollars which I applied for and was awarded- and to the continued support of the Dunn County Commission.  All North Dakota Peace Officers are required to obtain a minimum of 60 hours of training during every three year license period.  I have ensured that all Dunn County personnel are compliant with this requirement.  I intend to continue applying for and pursuing any additional grant funding available.  I have successfully written over twenty state and federal grants during my career.  I intend to keep the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department equipped and trained as well as or better than any law enforcement agency in the United States.
LAROCQUE: An assessment with need will need to be completed to address these issues. If equipment is needed then I would work with the County Commissioner’s to acquire funding for that and explore law enforcement grants that may be available for equipment and/or staff.

Q: In the past, Dunn County has had a problem retaining its deputies. How do you intend to retain current personnel?

COKER: When I took office, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department was experiencing a 100% turnover rate.  More personnel had left in the previous year than were employed.  Since taking office, the only personnel that are no longer employed are two that were terminated for cause and one who resigned without notice the day after being disciplined for poor job performance.  In fact, three deputies that had left the department before I took office have since returned.  As I previously stated, when I first took office last year, I made it very clear that it was my goal that the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department become the best that it possible could be and that I wanted personnel from surrounding law enforcement agencies to “want to be us”.  That is exactly what is happening.  In April, 2014 I began a “Certification of Integrity” process for the Department with Dr. Neil Trautman, Inc- formerly the National Institute of Ethics.  The organization has been one of the nation’s largest providers of workplace ethics training and is the largest provider of law enforcement ethics training.   A confidential employee survey was completed by every employee.  Conclusions recently submitted by Dr. Neil Trautman state the following: “The assessment conducted by this author concludes that the Dunn County Sheriff’s office is an excellent law enforcement agency.  This is particularly remarkable, since there is evidence that suggests the agency was substantially dysfunctional prior to Sheriff Coker taking office.  Confidential surveys completed by employees indicate that Sheriff Coker has garnered great respect, trust and admiration by his workforce.  The survey also suggests that considerable trust and respect from deputies now exists toward the sergeants.  Morale in the sheriff’s office has greatly improved since Sheriff Coker has taken office.  The employee surveys indicate this is the result of workers feeling they are now discipline fairly and supported by leaders.”
I believe that my continuing in the office of Dunn County Sheriff will definitely ensure continued retention of qualified personnel.

LAROCQUE: An assessment with need will need to be completed to address these issues. If equipment is needed then I would work with the County Commissioner’s to acquire funding for that and explore law enforcement grants that may be available for equipment and/or staff.

 

Q: Why are you a better fit for this department than your opponent?

COKER: There is a clear, bright line between myself and my opponent. It apparently was also obvious to the selection committee.  I have been a licensed peace officer three times longer than my opponent.  I have been a law enforcement administrator longer than my opponent has been in law enforcement.  I have the formal education, training and experience to effectively deal with the rapidly increasing public safety demands of Dunn County.  I have proven, in the short time that I have been in office, that I am more than capable of leading this agency into the future.  Again, let me quote Dr. Neal Trautman, “Confidential surveys completed by employees indicate that Sheriff Coker has garnered great respect, trust and admiration by his workforce. Morale in the sheriff’s office has greatly improved since Sheriff Coker has taken office. I believe this demonstrates that I am a better fit for the department.

LAROCQUE: I have the experience to be your Sheriff Dunn County is at a time when you need a leader to take the Sheriff’s Department into the future. We are all well aware of the changes in our county in the past few years and that future is good for the economy. Unfortunately, crime is on the rise also and I believe I am the right one for Sheriff to take the Department forward.

 

COKER Closing Remarks:
I believe I am the most educated, experienced and qualified candidate for the office of Dunn County Sheriff.  This race can be likened to a “job interview”.  The citizens of Dunn County-by your vote in November- are going to essentially “hire” a candidate to be the Sheriff of Dunn County.  If you were an employer- interviewing candidates for a position with your organization- would you not select the candidate with the most qualifications for the position?  Why should this be any different?  I feel I am the most qualified candidate for the office of Sheriff.  I have never been terminated from a job in my entire life.  I have been a public servant my entire adult life.  My law enforcement career is spotless. Dunn County is going through rapid and radical changes.  We cannot let the rapid growth and change overwhelm us.  We cannot lose control and become another Williston-trying to catch up and regain control.  I have proven over the past year that I am more than capable to accomplish this mission. I respectfully ask for your vote on Nov. 4.

 

LAROCQUE Closing Remarks:
You the voters are going to be confronted with tough decisions. If you want the sheriff’s office to continue the way it has, the decision is easy and the choice is the sitting sheriff.  If you want change, the option is me. We must improve the image of the sheriff’s department in Dunn County.  New and innovative ideas are needed for the department, which I can bring to the table. I pledge no favoritism, no retaliation and urge you to vote for me.  I am running on the record of even and equal and decent treatment to each and every citizen that we contact. I will provide the leadership and direction to good people to do the job properly.  You do have choices and I respect your choice and the will of the people. I will take on the issues of drug interdiction, traffic, dui and other issues that will come to Dunn County. I plan on taking this department a long way into the future. I thank you all for your support this past year. ■


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GAMES


2 thoughts on “Who will you pick?

  1. Clay Coker is by far more qualified and if you talk too his officers they have so much respect for clay and what that means to a department speaks volume.
    I listen too Kenny and it makes you want to feel sorry for the guy. Kenny has been terminated his last two jobs,he can’t answer any question how he will be a leader for the sheriffs department. Kenny really has no experience to be sheriff.
    Dunn county if you vote Kenny Larouqe in for sheriff you will see change and all hope will begon for Dunn county.
    Coker for sheriff easy choice!!!

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