Burnett County Police Departments: Case Load is Time-Consuming, Stressful
Community policing is changing in northwestern Wisconsin, say the local police officers in Burnett County. The cases are more complex. They take longer to investigate, and more serious cases now involve youth in the 12-14 age group. The stress level among police officers is high.
“We have been really busy with a number of difficult cases,” Grantsburg Police Chief Jeff Schinzing (pictured above) told the Grantsburg Village Board Monday at the March board meeting. He listed an adult sexual assault case; a case of 12-year-olds sending nude pictures by phone; an adult suspect arrested for break-ins at a local business and at a church. “These are very time-consuming cases,” he said.
His comments mirror recent reports from Siren and Webster Police. The number of new cases in Siren doubled in the January-February time period, increasing sharply over the record-setting caseload in 2017. Last month the village of Siren — population less than 1,000 — added a third full-time police officer.
Two recent Webster cases were also time-consuming, according to Chief Mike Spafford. They required many interviews due to actions and comments by some middle school students about the Florida school shooting that alarmed their classmates. Webster Police are also investigating shots fired into two unoccupied vehicles near Webster High School during a basketball game on March 3.
School shooter intervention training
Schinzing told the Grantsburg Village Board at the end of the month there will be a school shooter intervention training for area police departments at the Grantsburg school (outside of school hours) starting on a small scale, but then adding other departments including the Burnett County Sheriff’s Department.
“The training is geared toward the initial people responding to those (shooting) events, which will usually be local police because most of the action happens in the first couple of minutes,” Schinzing said. “It’s about rapid response and who can get there quickly, rather than waiting for the cavalry to come, because that’s too late.”
Church preparedness and security
He said after the recent daytime break-in at Faith Lutheran Church, he has been approached by another church about holding a church safety training. On Thursday, Grantsburg Police will meet will some local pastors plus a member or two of their congregations.
“The goal is for them to come up with a response plan or emergency plan on how to deal with an emotionally disturbed person and how to deal with a person who verbally or physically attacks a pastor.
“All the things churches may have to deal with that you wouldn’t think they would have to,” Schinzing said. “We have to talk about having a plan if someone comes into a church and takes a child. Who is your go-to person in those first critical moments before the police actually show up?” He said the people doing the training will hold another session next week for Frederic churches.
Schinzing also said there was a local tie-in to the story last week of the man who fled police after a Wyoming, Minn., traffic stop. After a car chase the man fled on foot and caused the Forest Lake, MN Walmart store to be evacuated and shut down during a manhunt. “That actually started in Grantsburg because the guy was staying at the Grantsburg Hotel,” Schinzing said.
Reading from a police report he said that while trying to flee, the man drove his vehicle into two police vehicles and struck two officers, causing minor injuries. “This is the kind of world we are living in this days,” Schinzing said.
Dealing with the mentally ill
“It’s a really crazy world. The number of offenses and seriousness of offenses that we are experiencing is higher and more stressful for officers. If you talk to local law enforcement, whether the cases drugs or other crimes, we are dealing with people now who just don’t care whether they get apprehended and don’t respect police authority.
“Life means essentially nothing to some of these people, so it’s a trying time, especially when compounded by the mental health problems we are seeing.” Schinzing is hoping to arrange training for officers on how to deal with individuals with mental health problems, to learn how to keep the interactions from escalating.
A shrinking pool of new officers
Schinzing said the pool of available officers is shrinking, as fewer young people are interested in going into law enforcement. “It’s hard to get young people excited about law enforcement as a career. They are not attracted to going into the field of law enforcement anymore. Part of it is the growing number of dangerous situations they are getting involved in, and the stress level it causes."