Douglas deputies demanding their communications director get fired
August 4, 2008
An organization that represents Douglas County sheriff’s deputies, investigators and sergeants is calling for the ouster of emergency communications Director Dick Mirgon, citing safety concerns over the department’s failure to provide adequate equipment for officers in life-and-death situations.
In a letter dated Wednesday to interim County Manager T. Michael Brown, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Protection Association demanded Mirgon be fired immediately.
The letter comes one week after Mirgon was taken to task by the Douglas County grand jury for failing to address safety issues that were brought up years ago.
“It has been clearly demonstrated that Director Mirgon has no motivation to correct the shortcomings of the system,” the letter said. “His actions not only endanger our membership, he exposes the county to tremendous financial liability should a first responder’s injury or death be linked to the inability to communicate. Director Mirgon has squandered precious county resources to attend lavish training conferences with no documented benefit to the county. His long-term arrogance and derision toward our personnel is completely unacceptable.”
In a grand jury complaint filed last September, the association’s board of directors cited several instances when deputies’ communication equipment failed to perform in the field.
The complaint also criticized former Douglas County Manager Dan Holler for failing to resolve “supervisory shortcomings” addressed in the 2000-01 grand jury findings.
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Holler resigned in March to become city administrator in Grass Valley, Calif.
The protective association cited seven incidents dating to 2004 when officers’ communications equipment failed.
In one case, deputies struggled for 10 minutes with a naked man destroying a Lake Tahoe residence. Officers repeatedly tried to call dispatch for help, finally calling for neighbors to contact 911 on their personal phones. Because of limited staffing, assistance came from South Lake Tahoe police and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
In a 2004 incident, a deputy accompanied by a civilian observer contacted two suspects in a traffic stop. The deputy was unable to contact dispatch for assistance using his handheld radio. A struggle ensued, and the observer contacted dispatch through the car radio.
Several grand jury members observed the failure of handheld radios during an “active gunman” training exercise at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School last summer.
Deputy Kevin Schaller, a member of the board of directors, said Thursday that the association knows the sheriff’s administration made efforts to rectify the situation.
“But the sheriff’s office has no authority over the agency. It’s under the direction of the county manager and because of the former county manager (Holler), it didn’t get done. There’s no doubt in our mind the sheriff’s administration has put in a lot of effort,” Schaller said. “We know the sheriff’s administration and the new county manager desire to be part of the solution. Our ultimate goal? We need to be safe.”
The association membership includes 80 deputies, sergeants and investigators.