New sheriff wants help from community
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office covers a county with 702 square miles. Under minimum staffing, a patrol shift consists of three deputies in the valley and three at the lake basin.
Newly appointed Sheriff Ron Pierini knows the employees of the sheriff’s department alone can’t meet the law enforcement needs of Douglas County. But he believes they can with the help of the county’s 36,000 residents.
“One of the things I feel very strongly about is getting community involvement in law enforcement,” Pierini said. “That’s why we spend time going out into the schools and encouraging community policing programs.”
Pierini, 45, a native of Carson City, officially takes command for retiring Sheriff Jerry Maple on Oct. 3 in a ceremony on the county courthouse steps in Minden. Pierini began with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 1976, at the age of 21, after his graduation from the University of Nevada in Reno with a bachelor’s in administration and criminal justice. His interest in law enforcement began before college with membership in the a Carson City Explorer program.
For many years, Pierini worked at the Douglas County lake substation forging strong ties with the Tahoe community as a deputy and substation commander. Three years ago he was named undersheriff, a position he is eliminating as sheriff, placing the duties with two chiefs deputies, Robert Wenner and Robert Rudnick. Pierini said the change will save the department about $15,000 a year.
“My affiliation with the lake isn’t going to change,” Pierini said. “I never want to lose touch with the community. Its been very good to me. I know the people and I know what their concerns are.”
The biggest concerns, according to Pierini, are violence, gang activity and traffic violations.
“The sheriff’s department has zero tolerance on gangs,” Pierini said emphatically. “I’m not so naive to say there aren’t gang members in Douglas County, but I think we have stayed on top of it. There is zero tolerance because once gangs get established they’re almost impossible to stop.”
As for traffic, Pierini said with only four traffic officers in the department, it is utilizing more community programs. The recent move to involve the county high schools and parents in sanctions on teens who break traffic laws before, after and during school hours is starting this month. Pierini said the department will also be utilizing retired officers to help enforce traffic laws.
“We are going to crack down,” Pierini said. “But I’m not looking at it as a money generator for the department. I don’t believe in that kind of philosophy.”
Pierini received strong community support in his bid for sheriff. He was elected unanimously by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
“It sends a clear message of a vote of confidence in the sheriff’s department,” Pierini said.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Protective Agency, a group consisting of the department’s deputies and investigators, also gave Pierini a clear vote of confidence. The agency took a membership vote before the commissioners appointment and Pierini came out on top with an overwhelming share of the vote.
“Based on his past dedication and performance he’s the one we want leading the department,” said Mark Munoz, president of the sheriff’s protective agency. “We’ve got the confidence in him to lead us on from here.”
Pierini said he also plans to begin utilizing inmate labor for projects around the county and aggressively seeking grants to supplement the department’s budget. Pierini said the department had recently applied for a $25,000 federal grant for technological improvements for investigations. He has also asked the county commissioners to authorize the sheriff’s department to build a public shooting range that could also be used for department training. Pierini said he believes there is federal funding available for such a facility.
Pierini’s term runs till the first week in January of 1999. The next general election for the sheriff’s position is November of 1998. Pierini said he plans to run for the position and will be the first to sign up in May.
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