Charges fly in sheriff’s race over Incline substation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

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.

The smallest crowd in 20 years attends Reno’s New Year’s event

RENO (AP) – Relatively tame crowds greeted the new year in the Reno-Tahoe area after the region’s worst flooding since the New Year’s Day 1997 flood, authorities said. In Reno, police estimate only 5,000 to 7,000 celebrants joined Mayor Bob Cashell in the countdown to 2006. Officers called it the smallest throng in nearly 20 years. “No one could get in and out because of road closures and floods everywhere,” Reno police Sgt. Jack Munns said. Officials also attributed the smaller crowd to cancellation of the city’s annual New Year’s Eve fireworks show after the flooding. The show had been rescheduled for Sunday night, but was scrapped again after a new storm brought more rain and high winds to Reno. In Reno, 27 people were booked into the Washoe County Jail on New Year’s Eve, Washoe County Sheriff Dennis Balaam said. Heavy snow cut down on New Year’s crowds last year. Only about 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered at Stateline, well down from the previous year’s crowd of 50,000. In Reno, last year’s crowd also was much smaller than the previous year when 50,000 celebrants packed the downtown.

Unsafe child seats crushed

MINDEN – There were only 30 child seats in need of crushing on Monday at the Douglas County Transfer Station. But, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mike Biaggini thinks that’s a good sign. “Maybe we’re starting to get all the unsafe seats off the road,” he said. “The program is working.” The crushed seats were exchanged for new seats during the course of the year because they were damaged, too old or had been recalled. Sheriff’s deputies drove the county’s M113A armored personnel carrier, affectionately known as the tank, over the car seats to make sure they never injure a child. State law mandates that children be in safety seats through age 6 or until they weigh 60 pounds. The program is financed through a Nevada Office of Traffic Safety grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Biaggini buys $8,000 worth of car seats each year which are stored by Dick Hanson of Gardnerville. The Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley also assists with the inspections. Participants can expect to spend about 30 minutes for the process, depending on the number of technicians available. Subway Sandwiches provides food for the checkpoints. Deputies will be checking seats 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mothers Of Preschoolers Child Seat Safety Day. The mothers are starting their event at 9 a.m. at Carson Valley Christian Center. Anyone who cannot come out for today’s child seat check is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s office at 782-9905 for an appointment. Seat checks are conducted Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. Biaggini said deputies will inspect or install seats.

Abduction alert to utilize media

In the wake of the murder last year of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman, Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini is helping organize an abduction alert system that will use emergency broadcast bands on television and radio. The Krystal Child Abduction Alert Plan is named in memory of Steadman, a fourth-grader who in March was kidnapped while playing outside a Stateline apartment. Her body was found a day later down an embankment alongside U.S. Highway 50 several miles west of Carson City. Friday, Steadman’s older sister, Sonya Klemper, attended a meeting in Reno where law enforcement announced plans to create “Krystal Alert.” “It’s actually very overwhelming . . . very moving,” she said. “I’m really excited about it. I think its’ really going to help. I’m really honored they involved me and my family and used Krystal’s name.” In Nevada, organization of the alert system is being coordinated by Washoe County Sheriff Dennis Balaam. When the system is up and running, law enforcement in nine counties are expected to feed case information to radio and television stations “It won’t cost anything,” Pierini said. “It’s basically meant to increase the possibility of apprehension by having more eyes and ears in community. We know we only have a short period of time to find the suspect and victim.” Pierini emphasized that once the system is in place it must be used with discretion. “We’ll have the protocol in line and will not abuse it,” he said. “First of all we have to make sure to investigate and make sure it’s a good case. We have to make sure we do our job. But law enforcement can never be successful all the time without public assistance.” In California, plans are also under way to establish a similar program, called “Care Alert,” in seven counties including El Dorado. Nina Salarno Ashford, director of the California Attorney General’s Office of Victim Services, is coordinating the creation of the alert system. She’s using a program that started in Dallas called “Amber Alert,” as her model. “We’ve already got it up and running in Orange (County) . . . we’re growing it county by county,” she said. “It goes right to media. It’s media alert that breaks programming on radio and T.V.” So far, Amber Alert has helped find six children and one adult in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. That program is named after Amber Hagerman, a girl who in 1996 was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas.

Sheriff testing for reserve officers

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department will be conducting testing for the position of Reserve Officer at 8 a.m. June 3. at the Douglas County Law Enforcement Building, 1625 8th Street, Minden. You must be at least 21 years of age to apply. Testing for this position consists of a written examination, oral board review, physical ability testing and a background investigation. Those individuals contemplating a career in law enforcement are encouraged to participate. This is a fantastic opportunity to discover if law enforcement is the career for you. The reserve program is especially looking for interested females as the need for female officers to assist with extraditions is increasing. Reserve deputies work an array of details, augmenting the sheriff’s department personnel and may be assigned to assist in the jail division, patrol division or elsewhere as the need arises. Reserve officers receive the training and experience law enforcement agencies look for when hiring new officers. Interested individuals should contact the Douglas County Human Resource office at (775) 782-9860 to obtain an application prior to the testing date. Those individuals having questions about the application or testing process may contact Sgt. Tom Mezzetta at (775) 782-9931.

Plane appeared distressed, erratic before crash near Fallon

FALLON ” Witnesses said that a twin-engine Cessna 320 that crashed near Fallon killing a Fallon Naval Air Station officer and three daughters appeared to be in distress and maneuvered erratically shortly before the crash. The plane was returning to Fallon, about 60 miles east of Reno, from Fresno, Calif., when it crashed Friday night on a road about one mile from the Fallon Municipal Airport runway, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane burst into flames after crashing and all four people were pronounced dead at the scene. Naval Air Station Fallon Executive Officer Cmdr. Luther Hook, 44, and three of his daughters are the confirmed victims of the plane crash. Hook perished in the twin-engine Cessna crash along with daughters Kaitlyn Elizabeth, 15, Rachel Katherine, 12, and Mackenzie Elena, 9. The identifications came through preliminary information provided by family, friends and airport representatives. The four were in route to Fallon from Fresno, Calif. Kelly Spicer, a representative from the airport, said Hook flew to Fresno every Friday afternoon to pick up his daughters from a previous marriage for weekend visitation. He returned his daughters to Fresno each Sunday afternoon in the two and half hour round trip. Hook is survived by his wife Wende Hucke Hook, a native of Fallon, a daughter and a step-daughter. Friends have left numerous condolences on Wende’s Facebook page. She posted a message Saturday morning around 7 a.m. and in the subsequent comments she stated her husband and three step-daughters went down in a plane crash Friday night. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been on scene since early this morning. Churchill County Sheriff Rich Ingram said the bodies have been recovered and his office has turned the scene over to representatives from the two federal agencies. The sheriff’s office is being assisted by NAS Fallon security personnel at the crash site. Ingram said he knew Hook personally and spoke to him on numerous occasions. Both men recently participated in a reading project at Numa Elementary School and in a “Dancing With the Stars” fundraiser for the local high school’s swing dance club. Hook also started a business called Golden Wings Travel, a home-based travel agency. On his company’s Web site, Hook said he started the business to supplement his earnings and provide an income opportunity after he retired from the Navy. Spicer said the twin-engine Cessna 320 owned by Hook was well maintained and had actually been sold to Hook by a former commanding officer at NAS Fallon. “There was a lot of history in that airplane,” Spicer said. The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office received a report of the small plane crash at 7:36 p.m. The plane went down approximately three-quarters of a mile to one mile east of the airport’s runway. The municipal airport is located on the north side of Rattlesnake Hill. Witnesses on the ground said the plane appeared to be in distress and maneuvering erratically. Shortly afterward the plane impacted the ground and smoke and flames were seen at the site of the crash. Hook was born in Havana, Fla., and was a 1986 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He received his Wings of Gold after completing flight training in Beeville, Texas in 1988. As a pilot flying the F/A-18 Hornet, Hook flew from the decks of the USS Constellation, the USS Independence, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Kitty Hawk. He served in number of strike fighter squadrons, including VFA-113, VFA-125, VFA-151, VFA-22, and as a Landing Signals Officer with Carrier Air Wing Eleven. Since 2005 he was stationed at NAS Fallon, serving first as the Operations Officer and then as the Executive Officer. During his naval aviation career, he amassed over 2,700 flight hours in the F/A-18. His awards and decorations include the Air Medal with Combat V, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation and Navy Achievement Medals, as well as various other campaign and expeditionary medals. Navy personnel are assisting the family in their time of loss. Memorial services will be announced when arrangements have been finalized.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to target speeders in July

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office along with the Nevada Highway Patrol and Lyon County Sheriff’s Office are targeting speeders through out the remaining days of July. The effort is part of the Joining Forces traffic safety program. “Many people think speeding may not be dangerous while driving. However, the chances of being involved in a traffic accident rise as you speed,” said Sgt. Bernadette Smith, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer. “There is a greater risk of losing control of your vehicle and the amount of time it takes to stop a vehicle increases when you are speeding. “People may suffer unexpected economical and psychological effects as a result of being in an accident caused by speeding. These are just a few reasons why you should go the posted speed limit and not speed while driving to your destination.” For resources and safety tips visit: http://www.zerofatalitiesnv.com/always buckle up.

Friends leave Facebook messages for wife of Fallon pilot, daughters

FALLON ” Naval Air Station Fallon Executive Officer Cmdr. Luther Hook, 44, and three of his daughters are the confirmed victims of a plane crash that took place Friday evening near the Fallon Municipal Airport. Hook perished in the twin-engine Cessna crash along with daughters Kaitlyn Elizabeth, 15, Rachel Katherine, 12, and Mackenzie Elena, 9. The identifications came through preliminary information provided by family, friends and airport representatives. The four were in route to Fallon from Fresno, Calif. Kelly Spicer, a representative from the airport, said Hook flew to Fresno every Friday afternoon to pick up his daughters from a previous marriage for weekend visitation. He returned his daughters to Fresno each Sunday afternoon in the two and half hour round trip. Hook is survived by his wife Wende Hucke Hook, a native of Fallon, a daughter and a step-daughter. Friends have left numerous condolences on Wende’s Facebook page. She posted a message Saturday morning around 7 a.m. and in the subsequent comments she stated her husband and three step-daughters went down in a plane crash Friday night. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been on scene since early this morning. Churchill County Sheriff Rich Ingram said the bodies have been recovered and his office has turned the scene over to representatives from the two federal agencies. The sheriff’s office is being assisted by NAS Fallon security personnel at the crash site. Ingram said he knew Hook personally and spoke to him on numerous occasions. Both men recently participated in a reading project at Numa Elementary School and in a “Dancing With the Stars” fundraiser for the local high school’s swing dance club. Hook also started a business called Golden Wings Travel, a home-based travel agency. On his company’s Web site, Hook said he started the business to supplement his earnings and provide an income opportunity after he retired from the Navy. Spicer said the twin-engine Cessna 320 owned by Hook was well maintained and had actually been sold to Hook by a former commanding officer at NAS Fallon. “There was a lot of history in that airplane,” Spicer said. The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office received a report of the small plane crash at 7:36 p.m. The plane went down approximately three-quarters of a mile to one mile east of the airport’s runway. The municipal airport is located on the north side of Rattlesnake Hill. Witnesses on the ground said the plane appeared to be in distress and maneuvering erratically. Shortly afterward the plane impacted the ground and smoke and flames were seen at the site of the crash. Hook was born in Havana, Fla., and was a 1986 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He received his Wings of Gold after completing flight training in Beeville, Texas in 1988. As a pilot flying the F/A-18 Hornet, Hook flew from the decks of the USS Constellation, the USS Independence, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Kitty Hawk. He served in number of strike fighter squadrons, including VFA-113, VFA-125, VFA-151, VFA-22, and as a Landing Signals Officer with Carrier Air Wing Eleven. Since 2005 he was stationed at NAS Fallon, serving first as the Operations Officer and then as the Executive Officer. During his naval aviation career, he amassed over 2,700 flight hours in the F/A-18. His awards and decorations include the Air Medal with Combat V, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation and Navy Achievement Medals, as well as various other campaign and expeditionary medals. Navy personnel are assisting the family in their time of loss. Memorial services will be announced when arrangements have been finalized.

County Sheriff’s office shakes things up

Three South Lake Tahoe law enforcers for El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department will be moving to new desks and responsibilities starting Feb. 22. The most dramatic is Capt. Fred Kollar’s move to undersheriff. Kollar doesn’t intend to move from his South Lake Tahoe home and will commute the hour to Placerville. He takes the place of Jeff Neves, who became sheriff in January. Sgt. Randy Peshon received a promotion to lieutenant and will oversee the daily operations of El Dorado County Jail. Lt. Les Lovell, who had the responsibility of being the head of the jail, will become head of patrol. Unlike Peshon or Lovell, Kollar didn’t plan on being involved in law enforcement during his early years. Kollar was coaching football 28 years ago when his friend pressured him into taking the police test with him. “I primarily did it for a buddy of mine,” Kollar said. “I got hired and he didn’t. It’s one of those things I stumbled into but I enjoyed it ever since.” Kollar spent his first five years with the San Francisco Police Department. He moved from San Francisco to become involved in the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. Kollar has taken roles in patrol, courts, jail, as narcotics sergeant, running a task force, investigation and internal affairs. He has climbed the ladder from sergeant to lieutenant to captain. Now the former football coach is in charge of 385 employees and about $36 million. He jokingly described his math skills as “pretty decent.” Kollar hopes to rebuild relationships after an election between Neves and Sgt. Larry Hennick created a split in the department. Increased community outreach, running the department like a business and letting employees know of their importance are areas Kollar would like to focus upon. With budget cuts looming, Kollar plans to keep vacancies open while keeping jobs. Once he leaves his captain position, where he supervised patrol in South Lake Tahoe and Placerville, it will not be filled. “The last thing I want to do is walk up to somebody we just hired and say, ‘Sorry, but due to budget cuts we’re going to have to let you go.’” Neves said he and Kollar share the same leadership values and commitment to community. “Fred is just one of those rare individuals who just has a high energy drive,” Neves said. Peshon will move up a rank when he moves into the chair occupied for three years by Lovell. Peshon will assume jail responsibilities a day after Lovell submits the facility’s budget. With 16 years serving El Dorado County and six before that in the Bay Area, the family-man will take on unfamiliar administrative duties. “All the things I didn’t have to worry about before, now I have to worry about,” Peshon said jokingly. During his short vacation, Peshon has taken information home to read up on policies and procedures. He has met with Lovell and staff members to acquaint himself with the new job. “Right now the jail is being run very well by the staff and it’s going to be a real challenge working in there because I never worked in there,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to the challenge.” Next week, when the moves take place, Lovell will become a lieutenant in command of Tahoe operations. It marks the first time in five years when two lieutenants at Tahoe will be in charge of operational and custody matters. Lovell, who began his career with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department 22 years ago, said he will miss his staff of nearly 50 employees but looks forward to the diverse aspects of his new job. “We have, I think, the best staff in the jail right now than we ever had,” Lovell said. “They’re true problem solvers willing to take on any issue.” In the past three years, the jail under Lovell received excellent marks from the El Dorado County grand jury. In addition to the Tahoe moves, Placerville Detective Mike Silvestri was promoted to sergeant and will likely be assigned to the Tahoe substation. Dave Stevenson, a patrolman in Placerville, will be a detective in the narcotics division.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office welcomes new deputy

Michael Barden was sworn in Monday as a new Douglas County Sheriff's deputy in a ceremony held at the Valley station, in Minden. Sheriff Ron Pierini said the appointment comes as a result of several months of testing and evaluation consisting of a written examination, physical agility test, oral interview, extensive background investigation, psychological evaluation, polygraph examination, and medical exam. Barden, 28, will undergo a rigorous 12-week jail training program to provide him with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform his duties as a jail deputy. Barden began as a DCSO Explorer. He continued as an advisor within the Explorers, while he attended Western Nevada College and the University of Phoenix, where he earned an Associate of Arts degree in criminal justice.