Dakota County Sheriff: Dave Bellows
Why did you enter law enforcement, and what has kept you in the field?
First and foremost I love this profession. There's an expression that law enforcement is, "A front row seat to the greatest show on earth." We are called into the best of times and deepest troubles people face. The daily challenges are important, necessary, rewarding, and, truthfully, even fun, after all these years. From the time I was drawn to police service in high school to today, the monumental changes in society are reflected in public safety challenges and crime trends. My job is to make sure resources are available to anticipate, adjust, adapt, and act when the phone rings, or prevent a problem before it happens. Every four years sheriffs need citizen permission to keep serving public safety, and on Nov. 2nd I trust they will let me continue.
What is your philosophy regarding law enforcement?
The nexus of crime is money, drugs, and alcohol. We need close collaborations among law enforcement agencies because criminals don't respect jurisdictional boundaries. They also know a thing or two about supply and demand, and high tech ways to communicate and run businesses with cell phones and PDAs. Our abilities to communicate and run our "business" need to exceed theirs. Take the jail: we spend $9 million/year for 265-plus inmates/day. My philosophy is to discourage repeat business. I don't believe taxpayers should bear the full cost. So inmates pay fees for booking, medical co-pay, and "pay to stay," and eat meals that qualify as nutritional but cost taxpayers $1.30 per meal. My philosophy about law enforcement includes saving taxpayers over $1.2 million since 2003 in jail operations for inmate medical care and food. That's just prudent public leadership.
What is the major law enforcement issue in the county and how should it be addressed/resolved? How can this be accomplished in light of reduced budgets and employee reductions?
The culture of the Sheriff's Office is progressive because we continuously redesign operations to redeploy resources ahead of innovative criminals. Expansion of the seven-year-old Electronic Crimes Unit is necessary because criminals today use computers more than guns or knives. The Internet is a worldwide patrol challenge. Tracking criminals across jurisdictions requires us to also outfit squads with computers, cameras, and radios more valuable than the car. State-of-the-art technology is crucial to working smart and cost-effectively. Example: we were the first to post jail inmate information on the web for 24/7 searches, with warrants close behind. That improved information access and freed staff and phones for other work. I also advocate the use of interactive television to reduce the need to transport vulnerable adults from institutions to court hearings typically settled in a brief amount of time.
Why did you decide to run for sheriff?
After 11 years as chief deputy, I know the sheriff's job, and I know what local law enforcement needs from the sheriff. Law enforcement relies on trusted teams, and I was honored when Assistant Commissioner Tim Leslie of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agreed to accept the chief deputy sheriff's job. The 400,000 citizens of this fast-growing county deserve seasoned leadership in the Sheriff's Office. Our commitment is to keep Dakota County the safest place to live, work, and visit by working closely with all stakeholders involved in law enforcement and criminal justice.
What makes you the best candidate for the position?
Collaborations are necessary to eliminate redundancies across agencies. I am proud of Dakota County's ability to accomplish the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center, Multi-Agency Assistance Unit (SWAT), County-wide Drug Task Force, and traffic safety programs. Dakota County is well-served by this strong network among leaders and rank-and-file officers. This is a crucial time when trusted relationships and experienced administration skills matter. The Sheriff's Department alone faces $500,000 in mandatory 2011 cuts beyond the $400,000 cut last year. We will again roll up sleeves and explore time-tested options that enable us to maintain or improve services without impacting public safety. See my values and endorsements of collaborating leaders in law enforcement at http://www.bellowsforsheriff.com. These are not campaign-year promises. I have a proven track record.