By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser said last week that he has made no major changes and there have been no major problems during his first month in office.
Kaiser became sheriff Jan. 1 after 16 years with the Carthage Police Department — the past four as assistant chief.
Kaiser said he is considering two changes: shifting the Sheriff’s Department’s dispatching services back to the Jasper County 911 Center and relocating some department operations to a building on the courthouse square.
Members of the Jasper County Emergency Services Board last week endorsed a proposed agreement offering to provide the dispatching services at no charge to the Sheriff’s Department. The county had paid just over $110,000 annually for dispatching when it used the county service previously.
Kaiser said the dispatching shift also makes sense from a public safety standpoint because it would eliminate the transfer of 911 calls.
“When someone has an emergency, the last thing they want to hear is, ‘Stand by while I transfer you,’” he said.
The county-owned building is on the northwest corner of the Carthage square. A former bank building, it is larger than the complex where the sheriff’s office moved after staffing and programs were added following approval of a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax in 2005. Kaiser said there would be plenty of office space for administration, investigation and other operations, as well as space that could be used to meet with the public.
The building was owned by the county but was being rented when former Sheriff Archie Dunn set up operations in leased space on County Road 180. The lease extends until the end of this year, Kaiser said, adding, “If we decide to move earlier, I’m hoping we can negotiate something.”
“I’m still looking at both those as tentative,” he said of the proposals, “but I’m certainly exploring the feasibility, and so far, it looks good.”
Kaiser said he has found the department’s workers to be “a great group of employees who are committed to their jobs. They’ve helped me get acclimated here. It has been a long time since I was the new guy.”
That’s been the major change, he said — getting used to a department that has 150 employees rather than 50, and learning the names of employees he didn’t already know.
The office also started a Facebook page in hopes of improving communication with the public. And Kaiser said he is looking for ways to implement community policing practices that are in use in Carthage, while acknowledging that the normal relationship between residents and law enforcement might be different in rural areas.
“I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to be a bother, but we’d much rather be able to respond and prevent something than to investigate after the fact,” he said.
Kaiser said he is pleased with the department’s technology and with equipment that has been purchased with additional revenues that came after passage of the law enforcement sales tax.
“The technology here is as advanced as you’ll find in any sheriff’s office, and when we hire a deputy, we’re able to outfit them from top to bottom,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in every chief’s office.”
Sheriff Randee Kaiser said he has met with emergency dispatchers in the department to assure them they will have jobs with the sheriff’s office if the office eliminates its own dispatching and they are not hired on by the Jasper County 911 Center.