A Sheriff's Responsibilities - More Than You Might Think

Captain Dondorfer has been with Lake County Sheriff's Office for 20 years

Captain Dondorfer has been with Lake County Sheriff's Office for 20 years

Sheriff departments’ responsibilities differ from state to state, but, according to Captain Carl Dondorfer of Lake County, Ohio, there’s a common thread of misconception that underlies them all. “Often people don’t understand the wide array of duties the sheriff’s office has,” he said. “A lot of times they’ll think that it’s just the county jail that we’re in charge of, but actually it’s a lot broader.”

Broad indeed. Lake County Sheriff’s Office does have responsibility over the 400 bed county jail, but the bill hardly stops there. They provide patrol divisions to several neighboring townships, inmate transportation, run boarder security along Lake Eerie as well as a dive team search and rescue. They also house the county SWAT team and detective bureau.

“It’s especially true in the country more so then in municipalities,” Captain Dondorfer said. “In the country, since the sheriff’s boundaries are larger than a police officers, the responsibilities seem to grow.” So much for the media driven perceptions I’ve let myself cling to!

I’m interested in this because, unless you know a law enforcement officer of some kind, you only really have the assumptions built from movies and television shows to go off of. I realize I’m making another assumption here, but I assume a lot of people just fill in the gaps the same way I have not really understanding what the day to day is like for the public servants who keep us safe.  

Overall, though “Being in law enforcement is a really rewarding field,” he told me. “You get to help people in tragic situations and bring resolutions to hard times. But with the array of responsibilities that the sheriff’s department is expected to handle, it can also be very demanding to stay up to date with training and often means you’re making sacrifices with family time.”

Crime in the Digital Age

On the subject of letting the media fill in the gaps, cyber-crimes are another big area that, unless you’ve been the victim of one or know someone personally who has, much of what the public knows is based on Dateline stories or local nightly news briefs.

Deputy Sheriff Badge

Deputy Sheriff Badge

“Law enforcement has had to become more proficient in tech tracking,” Captain Dondorfer said. “There’s been a significant tech uptick in public safety and we have departments that employ techniques to investigate different technical crimes, particularly internet crimes against children and identity theft.”

It’s a real art form keeping up with the current trends in crime that new technology has allowed. “There’s a lot more crimes across state lines particularly in association with EBay and Craigslist. It’s demanding to stay trained in new investigative techniques as cyber-crime trends get more advanced.”

I asked him if he thought that some of it was just sensationalized. Sometimes I watch Dateline and think that they focus on the worst things and turn an uncommon occurrence into something every citizen should fear for (it should be noted, however, that I have been called overly optimistic). But in all likelihood, as I learned, these crimes are likely underreported if anything.

“Really people should be more cautious,” he told me. “Over the last 10 years there’s been a big shift from local crimes to crimes across borders. Right now we’re try to stop what we’re calling the Grandparent Scam where a caller from overseas targets older people, tells them that their grandchild is in jail and needs them to wire $2000 for them to get out.” As with the Grandparent Scam and so many other cyber-crimes, an unexpected number of people have been affected and the real challenge is educating them of the risks.

WHY ONLINE BOOKING FOR A SHERIFF’S OFFICE?

A few years back, Ohio state law extended the Sheriff offices’ responsibilities further still by charging them with the duty to administer conceal carry permits. A definite buzz topic of late, Captain Dondorfer explained that, “Despite how very proficient our office is the numbers kept growing where we were sometimes seeing upwards of 100 people per day coming into our offices. It was too much and, by no fault of their own, the staff couldn’t keep up. We needed a scheduling format.”

He also mentioned the heavy call volume and how inefficient making all those return calls would be. “We couldn’t keep following up with voicemails because we had all the people in our office looking to get the permit.” He detailed the order they tried to place around the chaos but said ultimately, “I checked in with the Wood County Sheriff Office and asked what they were doing.” [Note: Wood County, also in Ohio, is a TimeTap user]

“The staff I spoke with there talked about the good customer service and that’s when I contacted you to see how we could more effectively serve the people looking to get conceal carry permits,” he said. “So far, online scheduling has been flawless. We’ve polled people at random who have come in and asked how it worked for them. Many have said that they come to Lake County specifically because it’s easy to book with – they didn’t have to call and wait for that to be returned if it wasn’t immediately answered.”

And as far as the 100+ person influx each day? “The overflow in our office has gone down to where we serve 50-55 people on a daily basis without them having to wait. The manager over there is really satisfied and says it has pretty much streamlined it on a daily basis.”

As Captain Dondorfer mentioned above, being a law enforcement officer is a rewarding field especially when you get to bring a resolution to difficult times. He let me know that “Just last week, a female from an adjacent county came in and told us that she’d been waiting for 2 months to get a permit from her county which she needed because of feeling threatened in her current life situation. She loved being able to book online with us and not have to wait a long time once she got to the office.”

For Lake County, online scheduling for conceal carry permits has made the citizens being served much happier and calmed much of the hectic day to day inflow of people.

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