New jail, more technology in store for DCSO

As he stands amid the mounds of dirt and exposed foundation, Capt. John Milby envisions Douglas County Jail inmates being fed meals prepared in a brand new kitchen by year's end.

But for today, Milby acknowledges the efforts of jail food supervisor Eric Buehrle who makes daily trips to the jail kitchen at the Lake Tahoe substation to feed the current population of 60 inmates.

"Cold breakfasts, sack lunches and hot meals for dinner, but inmates still say it's the best food in the state of Nevada," Milby said Tuesday.

Work on the 15,000-square-foot expansion of the county Judicial and Law Enforcement Center began in November.

Milby said the contractor, APCO, has 11 months to complete the $4.5 million project, and construction is on schedule under the supervision of project manager Scott McCullough.

That's just one of the items on Sheriff Ron Pierini's plate in 2010 as he faces election to a fourth term and the challenge of maintaining the department within the constraints of Douglas County's budget.

Last year, Pierini had to cut his budget by $650,000 and lay off clerical personnel among the staff of 118 sworn officers and support staff.

"It was a horrible experience for us to lay people off," Pierini said. "We had no extra money, nothing to cut but people."

The clerical positions remained unfilled, but Pierini was allowed to reinstate three deputies' positions.

"We're going to budget for exactly what this department needs," Pierini said.

He praised the department for maintaining the status quo in calls for service. The numbers actually declined in 2009.

"Thefts are highest with batteries next," he said.

There was one homicide in 2009, the same number as the year before.

Pierini concentrated on directing additional personnel toward drug enforcement and the gang unit.

"It seems like an endless battle," Pierini said. "Both the task forces are working really hard."

Pierini said both groups would continue regional work with law enforcement in Carson City and Lyon County.

"We're getting better intelligence, but the challenges continue," he said.

The sheriff's office has ongoing recruitment for deputies, but Pierini said qualified applicants are difficult to find.

"We do not want to hire someone who is not going to fit in at the sheriff's office or the community," he said.

Some jobseekers have gone so far as to lie on their applications only to be undone by a polygraph or background check, Pierini said.

"We find out they've been arrested, or have financial issues we can't bring into the department. They come in here and think they are going to beat the polygraph and that's not going to happen," Pierini said.

Ever since he took office in 1997, the sheriff has credited the community for much of the department's success.

"We can't do it on our own," he said. "We reach out to the public, but it's a huge benefit to us. We work so hard in prevention and education programs that there is that trust and faith in us from the public."

Pierini said the sheriff's office will continue to make improvements in technology and he credited the Sheriff's Advisory Council and other donors for contributing a half-million dollars over the past few years.

"This is a very giving community. The county doesn't have that kind of money," he said. "The future is technology and this new century gives deputies the tools to do their jobs, to increase odds in favor of the cops, less on the crooks."

He said the department wish list included cameras in each patrol cars, but they cost $7,000 each.

At age 58, Pierini said he's looking forward to another 4-year term in office.

"I love my job, the people I work with and the people I am working for," he said. "I'm not ready to retire."


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