Flathead County’s new sheriff is simultaneously settling into his role as the area’s top lawman and working on a new strategic plan to map out the future of the department.
Brian Heino was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 1, replacing Chuck Curry, who had the job since 2011. Heino appointed Wayne K. DuBois, a police sergeant from Richland, Washington, as undersheriff; Sgt. Nick Salois as patrol commander; and Sgt. Jeanne Parker as detective commander.
Heino said the first few weeks have been busy but that he’s excited about what his team can accomplish. Among his first priorities is completing a strategic plan to help the sheriff’s office prepare for the next decade. Although Heino said it’s too early to say what the final plan will entail, he did share some ideas. One of the most visible changes will be the addition of school resource officers, particularly at Bigfork High School and Evergreen Junior High School.
The sheriff said ideally he would like to hire new officers to fill those positions. During the academic year, the officers would be present at the schools and during the summer they would provide the department with a few extra deputies during the busy months.
Heino also said he would like to expand the local Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force as well as the sheriff’s office’s efforts to combat human trafficking.
“The safety of our kids will always be our No. 1 priority,” he said.
Another topic that will be addressed in the strategic plan is the possibility of a new county jail.
A few years ago, Flathead County’s 35-year-old jail was often filled to the brim with inmates, with some people having to sleep on temporary beds on the floor.
Thanks to a small expansion of the jail and new state sentencing laws, the jail population in Kalispell has been considerably more manageable in recent months. On Jan. 14, there were 115 inmates in the jail, far below the 154 maximum.
Heino stressed that just because the jail population is low now doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Heino said he hopes to continue studying the possibility of a new jail so that as the population grows local law enforcement will be able to handle demand in the future.
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