Charges fly in sheriff’s race over Incline substation
INCLINE VILLAGE — Former employees of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office have charged that current Sheriff Dennis Balaam has plans to close the Incline substation. Balaam denied there are any plans, calling the rumor “absolutely not true” and pointing out that the people spreading it are actively campaigning for his opponent, Bill Bowen. “With 12 percent of the tax money coming from Incline, there is no way on God’s green earth we would close the substation,” Balaam said. He went on to say that he is even looking at constructing a new building to replace the aging facility now used by the department. Daryl Riersgard said that while he worked for Balaam, a special study group was formed to look at consolidating the Incline substation and making it another patrol division to fit in with the rest of the county. Former lieutenants Geoff Wise and Mike Krammer said they were part of the group that studied closing the substation in 2001 before each retired. Both said Balaam was a proponent of this plan and that people they talk to who still work in the department say high-level discussions are still in progress on the subject. Balaam explained that the talk of closing the substation began under former Sheriff Dick Kirkland, who was looking to solve the problem of keeping the substation adequately staffed. “We’ve always had a difficult time (filling staff positions) up there,” Balaam said. Officers assigned to Incline used to be required to live in town, which made it difficult to fill positions because of the higher cost of housing. A stipend was created in the early 1980s to help with this problem. The rules have been relaxed over the years to allow deputies to live within 45 minutes driving time of Incline, which helps reduce staffing problems, according to Balaam. Balaam said talk of closing the substation ended more than a year ago, and he has no plans to revisit the subject. Krammer said he would expect to see the consolidation of dispatch services at the substation first before any move to close it was to happen. But Balaam said this would be impossible because of limitations with the 911 telephone system. “It just won’t work,” Balaam said. Wise and Krammer said that the plans for closing the Incline substation are the result of a move away from community policing. “I’m a huge proponent of community policing,” Wise said. “Incline should be a community-policing Mecca.” Krammer noted that under Balaam, all substations except Incline and Gerlach have been closed, which is contrary to community policing. He explained that under community policing, the organizational structure is decentralized, and the district commanders act like police chiefs, and are more empowered to deal with situations on their own. He also said that this philosophy of law enforcement allows officers to teach people how to solve their own problems, which keeps the number of non-serious calls down. “Community policing helps the small problems go away,” Krammer said. He pointed to the closing of the Sun Valley substation as an example of how Balaam is rolling back community policing policies established under Kirkland. When asked about the closing of the Sun Valley substation, Balaam said that was a move necessitated by Washoe County, not the department. The rent for the facility was split with the county, and the county cut back on its contribution. There is still an office in Sun Valley, though smaller than before, Balaam said.