RANCHESTER — Residents of the Tongue River Valley communities focused on one main question during the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office outreach event Monday night — how can we as a community help you?
The answer? Communication.
Sheridan County Sheriff Allen Thompson and deputies Boot Hill and Brandon Masters all agreed the best answer to the community’s recurring question was when in doubt, call the sheriff’s office. Masters said the office would rather hear about the same issue several times than not hear it at all. If deputies did not have information regarding a certain circumstance and someone calls it in, then they know something new.
Deputies also spent a good amount of time Monday explaining the response protocol in active shooter situations. The mention of having citizens help in those situations came up as well.
Thompson said he’s been questioned about the option of having citizen reserves for situations like a school shooting multiple times and will continue to look into it as a possible option. No action will be taken on the matter, Thompson said, until he’s able to do his due diligence in researching how other entities incorporate such systems.
Thompson said the outreach event was the first of its kind with SCSO since Thompson’s been affiliated with the office.
With former Sheriff Dave Hofmeier and his wife, Deb, leaving the Tongue River community, Thompson felt it imperative to connect with the community to seek how best to serve them in this time of transition.
While the initial structure was meant to serve as more of a casual meet and greet, citizens naturally settled into seating provided and waited for a program-like meeting. Thompson, Hill and Masters came into the evening with no set script, but an open forum format with the hopes of learning what they could do better to serve the community. What the deputies received was continued questioning of how the citizens could better help SCSO do its job. In response, Thompson said he will look into setting up something not quite like the Sheridan Police Department’s citizen police academy, but another form of training for interested community members.
Deputies encouraged community members to reach out to the office to report suspicious activity or to get any and all questions answered. They assured the crowd that even though the deputies might not be able to write a ticket for a reported act, they will certainly guide the situation to a resolution. Masters also encouraged citizens to be the best witness possible, utilizing cellphone technology to collect video and visual evidence that can be used by deputies in follow-up investigations.
Thompson expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from Sheridan County’s communities.
“The product we provide is our employees,” Thompson said, thanking the community for praise heard during the meeting.