Andy Dedeke is the sheriff of Leavenworth County. He answered five questions for the Leavenworth Times.
1 What are some of the challenges facing the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office?
Law enforcement is a dynamic and fluid profession. Keeping abreast of changes in the law, police procedure and advances in technology can prove to be challenging. One such technology has been cellular phones equipped with cameras. These devices, when left to the curious, developing minds, will for differing reasons photograph certain anatomical parts and then share them with their friends. This has proven to be problematic as these young people do not realize they may be violating the law and are inadvertently “exposing” themselves to the audience offered on the World Wide Web. Other challenging aspects of law enforcement today include striking a balance between budgets and the expectations of the community, providing a competitive salary and reducing the negative impact of illegal drug usage in our community.
2 What are some of the duties of the Sheriff’s Office that people may not know about?
Kansas state law requires the sheriff to provide and maintain a jail for the county's inmates and serve civil process. In addition to these duties, we provide police services primarily to the unincorporated areas, however our jurisdiction extends anywhere in Leavenworth County. These duties include patrol, response to citizen’s requests and complaints, investigations, traffic enforcement, communications, offender registration and records. Specialized units include a tactical team, countywide bomb team and honor guard. These duties may fluctuate depending on the needs of the community and this office. At times, deputies are required “to wear many hats.” We assist citizens with a wide variety of assistance such as vehicle breakdowns, provide limited animal control, herd cattle back into fields, provide first aid and other lifesaving measures and try to resolve conflict in various circumstances. Having jurisdiction throughout the county affords us an opportunity to assist not only all citizens, but agencies as well. This assistance may include response to calls in cities, backing an officer or assisting with an investigation within Leavenworth County. The Sheriff’s Office strives to remain transparent with the public in all our endeavors.
3 How has the Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement changed since you became an officer?
Just prior to the demolition of the “old jail,” I took an opportunity and toured the building. Although vacant for nearly 13 years and in poor condition, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the sights and sounds of the old building and the beginnings of my career. There was no air-conditioning; so it was hot, loud, smelly and often overcrowded. Today, the present jail is climate controlled, spacious and technology driven. Other significant changes I’ve experienced in my career include the collection of DNA. Once a relatively new tool for law enforcement, DNA was often reserved for major crimes only. Today, we routinely collect DNA during the processing of inmates, with search warrants and from property involved in criminal activity. I would submit though, the biggest change law enforcement has encountered is the new threat of terrorism. Terrorism always existed “over there;” however since September 11, 2001 our profession has forever changed and has brought about the need for hyper-vigilance and interoperability with other responders and agencies at all levels of government.
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4 What are some of the misconceptions people may have about law enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office?
We are not cold, callous or uncaring. Our profession is comprised of a group of people who care deeply about the community; we have families and want a safe environment to raise them in. Law enforcement is a professional career requiring one to have integrity, loyalty, respect, enthusiasm and courage. We work as a team and persevere through tribulations for the betterment of society. We consider ourselves a family with a mission of dedication and service to our community.
5 What can people do to protect themselves from being the victims of crime?
There are several things people in the community can do to protect themselves against criminal activity. We often suggest that people get to know their neighbors and report suspicious activity. Law enforcement is in a partnership with the community we serve, nothing is too minor to report. Get involved, be aware and keep yourself abreast of activities in your community or join a neighborhood watch program. Maintain your property in such a manner that vegetation is trimmed and opportunities of concealment for a criminal are reduced. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ask questions, don’t make rash decisions and in the words of President Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”