Friday, October 24, 2014

Ottawa police decline sheriff’s office invitation

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/16/2013

The Ottawa Police Department, on the advice of the city attorney, recently declined an invitation for its police officers to receive reserve deputy commission cards from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and participate in a swearing-in ceremony Monday.

But representatives of the city and the sheriff’s office said the move changes nothing from an operational standpoint, nor does it tarnish the spirit of cooperation between the two agencies.

The Ottawa Police Department, on the advice of the city attorney, recently declined an invitation for its police officers to receive reserve deputy commission cards from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and participate in a swearing-in ceremony Monday.

But representatives of the city and the sheriff’s office said the move changes nothing from an operational standpoint, nor does it tarnish the spirit of cooperation between the two agencies.

“We will respond as we always have, after dispatch or by invitation or request, but we decline the commission card invitation,” Bob Bezek, city attorney, wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to Jeff Curry, Franklin County sheriff.

Bezek said Wednesday the ongoing Kansas Bureau of Investigation probe of the sheriff’s office had nothing to do with his decision to decline the commission card invitation.

“It’s a risk management issue. It’s an insurance liability issue,” Bezek said.

Since the practice of offering police officers reserve deputy commissions in the county was long-standing, Sheriff Curry thought the offer should be given to allow the city “the opportunity to study the matter and make their decision,” Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy with the sheriff’s office, said.

Bezek said Ottawa police officers still have the authority to respond to calls outside the city limits when they are requested to do so by dispatch or another officer.

“Of course, any dispatch by the Franklin County Dispatch Center, or request for assistance by another officer of your department grants the authorization that is required for an OPD officer to exercise law enforcement authority in the county,” Bezek wrote in his letter to the sheriff.

As an illustration of how nothing has changed from a procedural standpoint, Bezek pointed out Ottawa police officers and sheriff’s deputies had worked together on several recent incidents. The two agencies collaborated to apprehend two suspects in Friday night’s armed robbery of the Princeton Quick Stop within minutes of the hold-up.

Curry said in a press release following the robbery that the quick arrest of the suspects was a credit to both law enforcement agencies.

In doing a risk management analysis on behalf of the police department, Bezek said he determined the reserve deputy status opens a potential insurance liability issue for the city. Plus, Bezek said, declining the commission card invitation prevents the possibility of any territorial disputes.

“The commission cards and authority that is implicit in the swearing in can create a risk management issue that can simply be avoided by not going through with the process,” Bezek said in his letter. “The commission card is not required by statute, and in one sense is legally superfluous.

“It’s more of a social and cultural practice,” Bezek said Wednesday. “Some counties do it, and some don’t.”

Fredricks agreed with Bezek’s assessment.

“The tradition of the sheriff offering reserve deputy commission cards to the municipal police officers is long standing and is ceremonial at best,” Fredricks said.

Sheriff’s offices across the state have debated the merits of the reserve deputy commissions, Fredricks said.

“This issue has also been long debated by the sheriffs of the state of Kansas as to whether this practice should continue,” Fredricks said. “Some sheriffs believe that with municipal officers holding reserve deputy commissions, this could muddy jurisdictional lines and cause liability issues as well.”

Fredricks said the decision would have no bearing on the spirit of cooperation between the two agencies.

“Sheriff Curry supports the [city’s] decision wholeheartedly and believes that this changes nothing going forward,” Fredricks said. “Deputies of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office consider the officers of the Ottawa Police Department ‘brothers in blue’ and will continue to assist them in their daily operations. We are confident they will continue to do the same.”

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com

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