Geary County Sheriff Daniel E. Jackson Jr. held a public meeting Monday night at the Geary County Senior Center to discuss future plans for the department.
Jackson introduced his department leaders, noting he believes it’s important that everyone knows who the leaders in the community are. He said there is some mistrust in the community due to actions in the past, and he wants there to be more transparency in the future. Jackson took over as sheriff in May, following the resignation of former Sheriff Tony Wolf, who resigned after pleading no contest to charges of theft and misuse of public funds in Geary County District Court April 26.
The goal of the meeting was to discuss the changes that have been put in place, the reasoning for the changes and to talk about other plans. The floor was later opened up for questions from visitors.
Jackson said the staff is well-equipped, trained and motivated. One of the more significant changes he recently made is that deputies will no longer have firefighting in their job descriptions. Deputies, for the most part, are not trained or certified to be firefighters, and those who are do it in their off time, Jackson said. He believes there is not enough time or money in the budget for firefighting to be part of their jobs. Putting employees who are not experienced in fighting fires would not only put the employee at risk, but it would also put the public at risk. Jackson wants to continue to protect the public and take no unnecessary risks. Deputies will still respond to any fire calls like they have in the past, however.
After some recent surveying, Jackson believes there are not enough corrections officers in the jail to maintain supervision responsibilities. He noticed that only one side of the jail was getting checked each hour, which leaves a lot of potential for danger to inmates. The number of corrections officers will be increasing because of this. And the washers and dryers in the jail will be replaced because of fires they have caused in the past. The new appliances will not cost taxpayers anything. There will also be programs implemented to help inmates find employment when they get out of jail, but inmates will only be allowed to participate if they play by the rules, Jackson said.
Flood rescues were also a point of emphasis for the department. A new boat was recently purchased for future flood rescues, and it will be able to assist many if the need occurs. New computer systems will also be installed in patrol cars, which will make it easier to track drivers’ licenses, and they will have GPS mapping systems. With the GPS mapping system, destination locations will be right in front of officers marked with a red dot on the map. The department will also be purchasing a new drone; a small one that can be operated in indoor spaces. The drone will have a camera, speaker and a spotlight. These initiatives will not cost the taxpayers anything, and will be funded utilizing an asset forfeiture fund.
Jackson also wants more participation from the sheriff’s department in schools in the case of an active shooter. The department needs to be involved in school district plans, and be notified of exits, entrances, safe rooms and everything possible to provide the greatest amount of safety possible if the situation were ever to occur.
A question was asked pertaining to an officer’s camera, and Jackson said every deputy has a camera, and they are supposed to be powered on the second they step out of their car. Questions about specific neighborhoods were addressed, and Jackson said all neighborhoods will be looked at to the best of their ability.
Drug use was also discussed briefly. Jackson said, in recent department findings, that crack cocaine is making a comeback, noting that if a drug is present in Manhattan, then it is likely here.
Jackson said the safety and security of the community and its property will always come first. The morale of everyone in the department is high, and the department will hold future meetings to update the public on new developments, Jackson said.