It is once again a true honor to author my annual letter and highlight another year filled with accomplishments and achievements by the dedicated men and women who proudly serve the mission of the Cochise County Sheriff's Office.
Many have told me that in today's world, law enforcement officers have a thankless job. Although, I understand the message, I whole heartily disagree. A law enforcement career is one of the most exciting and rewarding professions I know. Like our teachers, we don't do it for the money, but for the personal satisfaction of helping others.
These professionals continue to serve your mission by promoting "Quality Service and Community" each and every day. It is rare that a day goes by that someone from our community doesn't share an appreciation or positive thought with me regarding their treatment by one of these community professionals.
Last year, we stood united in our effort to bring the decade old employee salary levels to present day market values. The efforts and determination demonstrated by the members of this agency was remarkable. Although we didn't receive all the funding we asked for, our team never wavered during this long and arduous process. Moreover, the overwhelming support from you, our community, in seeing this process through was amazing. I can't thank you enough, and sincerely appreciate all you do in support of our deputies, detention officers, support staff and volunteers.
A state of the art regional communications center providing enhanced 911/radio communications for police, fire, and medical in your time of need will be unveiled this year. After many years of planning, organizing, and securing funds, I am very excited to finally see this vision become a reality. We hope by the beginning of this summer, the Southeast Arizona Regional Communications center will be in full operation.
Since February 2015, our Community Outreach Unit along with support from other public safety agencies, have successfully trained over 12,000 students, teachers, civic organizations and government employees how to react in an active shooter/violent situation. The value of this training was demonstrated during the recent Coronado Elementary School shooting. Educators, students and law enforcement's swift reactions, because of their training, ensured an orderly and safe outcome.
Based on an above average number of incidents involving individuals exhibiting abnormal behavioral issues, we are implementing a Crisis Response Team. The goal is to provide early medical intervention to those with mental health issues. By doing so, we hope to decrease the number of potentially violent and life-threatening incidents requiring a SWAT response which reduces risk for our deputies and you.
Kicking off this year, is a new program which not only supports our economy, but also helps those seeking a second chance within our community. The program, in partnership with the Southern Arizona Contractors Association, provides inmates in the Cochise County jail employment opportunities prior to release from custody. A program with positive end-results for all involved.
Overall, 2017 was another very busy year filled with growth, stabilization, sustainment and yes, betterment. Our organizational culture is well defined and recognized by those serving. As their leader, I serve my employees with balance, fairness, equality and respect. I advocate for them, lead them and support them in their time of need.
It is no secret that our culture revolves around those we serve. Each member of this agency believes in the righteous and fair treatment of people. We will remain humble at all times and continue to build relationships with our fellow law enforcement professionals, elected and community leaders at all levels and most important, YOU, our citizens that live and visit this great county and state.
We have worked hard to build and strengthen relationships and partnerships within and outside the boundaries of Cochise County. The results of these relationships and partnerships have allowed this office to seek grants, funding and needed support to enhance programs that promote our public safety mission and your safety.
I would remiss if I didn't thank Mr. Howard Buffett and his foundation, Governor Doug Ducey and his staff, and our local, state and federal leaders who have taken the time to listen and help address our concerns and support our programs. Whether it be border security, economy, drug epidemic, military or a special interest, these leaders illustrate community leadership. My recent visit to Washington D.C., thanks to an invite by Congresswoman Martha McSally, proved to be productive and beneficial as Cochise County was showcased during this historical event amongst our nation's top decision makers.
Since I was elected, I have embraced the motto, "Sheriff for all the People" and this will NOT change. As I approach my 34th year as a law enforcement professional, I realize how truly blessed I am to be able to serve the people of this county for another year. I continue to be honored, humbled and committed to your safety and quality of life. I care about each one of you and will continue to look for innovative and creative ways of policing for you. As you read on our patrol vehicles, "Leading the Way Since 1881", a legacy I am proud to represent and lead into the future.
Finally, we will continue to invest the time and transparency you expect which translates into trust. I invite each one of you to visit your local sheriff's office and meet the awesome men and women that serve you. If at any time, you have an issue or problem, I welcome and invite you to contact me and/or my leadership team so we can work together in bringing clarification and understanding regarding your concern. Thank you for ALL your loyal support as we together, truly define Community Policing!
Sheriff Mark J. Dannels
Challenges come in many ways, but as your Sheriff, one challenge that many don't think about is the operation of a county jail. The Arizona Constitution mandates the 15 sheriffs manage and operate a jail. No easy task in today's world of diverse expectations and governmental mandates. My jail commander is Kenny Bradshaw, who is a retired deputy warden from the Arizona Department of Corrections. His vast knowledge and experience provides me relief and confidence. Based on my experiences, no matter how many policies implemented, security measures and technology installed, training exercises, staff hired and trained, etc., no one cannot predict the unexpected.
Your Cochise County jails can accommodate over 300 people who have been arrested and/or ordered by a judge to be held in one of our facilities. The average daily population is 250 inmates. These inmates are kept safe by my 72 detention officers, which includes my jail commander. Covering 3 facilities, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, one can see how lean of a staff I possess. Our main complex is located in Bisbee and we have 2-satellite facilities located in Sierra Vista and Willcox. Our main complex was built in 1986 and is due for a remodel, which includes an expansion for today's demands. The offenses we see range from minor misdemeanors to felony homicide. I categorize two types of victims when someone is in my jail, those that have been victimized by the offender and the offender's family.
Blended into the population are those with undiagnosed or diagnosed mental health disorders. Unfortunately, your jail is the largest mental health facility within Cochise County. We have a section within our jail that is reserved for special handling, normally used for violent offenders and/or those that need special attention/protection. This section is currently being utilized for our mental health inmates. I would be the first to admit, not the ideal location for these inmates, but with lack of attention and facilities within Cochise County and beyond, my detention officers now become the counselors/caretakers for these individuals. My staff and I are vigorously working to bring some solutions to this problem.
Speaking of my detention officers, I can't say enough about these professionals. Their dedication and attention to detail is critical to their own and the inmates' safety. I am so proud of their efforts and commitment to our jail operations. The current starting salary for these professionals is $32,000/ annually. Recent efforts by my leadership team, we have increased these salaries to include implementing a performance-based step program. The overall turnover rate within the Sheriff's Office is one of the lowest in Cochise County, at a rate of 11%, excluding my jail. The position of detention officer is not an easy one to fill. It takes that right individual and character to fill these vacancies, which has been a serious challenge for my leadership team.
The culture within our jails is one modeled around rules, consequences and shared/earned respect. Most inmates, granted, do not want to be in my jail, but understand and respect the consequences of their actions. Frankly, some just don't care and spend most of their time calculating ill-will thoughts on how to get out and/or manipulate my staff. Others are filled with varying degrees of emotions, prompting that extra attention from my agency's chaplain and counselors. No matter what attitude is being played out, my detention officers must be vigilant at all times, as their safety is my number one priority.
Finally, my staff and I accept our mandates and responsibilities to provide an efficient, effective jail and will always seek out best-practices for those we serve. Most important, please join me in sharing my appreciation and gratitude for our detention officers who proudly serve in our jails and communities.
Sheriff Mark Dannels