Elkader chief discusses future of policing amid calls for county-wide tactical team

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


Police chief Mitch Seitz first presented the Elkader’s Police Department involvement with the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office in the development of a multi-jurisdictional response unit to the city council a few weeks ago. It has since progressed into becoming a potential reality for the county. But what is it, what does that mean for Elkader and what will the $3,000 requested by Seitz for the initiative be used for?


In an interview with Seitz, all these issues were addressed along with others, including concerns that were offered by the council at the time of the initial presentation regarding adding another layer of policing. 


According to Seitz, the purpose of the county-wide initiative is to create a tactical unit, not unlike a SWAT team, for training purposes and for responding to specific high-risk situations when needed. 


“The idea is to get a group of people trained really well, including instructor certifications, through the team…and what will happen then is that, quarterly, they will provide training to everyone in the county. So it’s a unified approach,” Seitz explained. 


The access to additional training is a large selling point for Seitz, who sees policing becoming less clear, while the roles of departments have increased in what they need to prepare for, specifically related to mental health situations. 


It’s one of the reasons the Elkader Police Department undergoes classes in mental health training, in an ongoing effort to prevent the use of force, de-escalate emotionally charged situations and utilize an empathetic approach. Such training allows officers to understand the dynamics at work in various circumstances to generate an acceptable outcome without resorting to the use of force. 


Additional trainings will be gained through the tactical unit, including advanced firearms trainings, room clearing and proper implementation of the use of force, as in when to and when not to use it, as well as teaching alternative methods and becoming more proficient at less lethal options. 


“I think, sometimes, in law enforcement, if they’re not highly trained and they’re trained at a basic level, they’re trained to go in, get the bad guy, and as long as the law is on their side and that person committed a crime, they just go in and do it. They don’t think about the dynamics of a crisis and how people sometimes can’t comply physically and mentally,” Seitz explained. 


There are other benefits to this training method as well, including efficiency and budgetary considerations. On efficiency, when the unit trains the local departments, it creates relationships and a universal approach to future situations where they might be involved. As for the budget, having unit members bring their expertise to the departments eliminates the need to send those officers to the training, which requires shifts to be covered, possible overtime and the cost of sending the officer to the training itself. Under this method, the burden is lessened. 


“I love that the team is going to train our officers and we don’t have to send our officers to all these tactical trainings. It’ll be through this team,” Seitz said. 


When it comes to the money, the $3,000 “is incorporated into the regular police budget, which is a general fund budget,” said Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert. 


What will it be used for? According to Seitz, $2,500 is for the buy-in for operational costs for the unit as a whole, while the remaining $500 will be used for equipment such as uniforms, helmets, communications systems and less lethal guns and ammo, assuming an officer from the department is selected to the team. That’s still unknown, as the official selection process has not begun, though Seitz indicated officer Tyler Bayzn is a candidate. 


Under what circumstances would such a tactical unit be necessary? Seitz listed a few possibilities, including high-risk search warrants, a person with a gun, missing persons or an active shooter. 


However, none of those are current risks, nor have they been recent risks within Elkader or even Clayton County. When asked about each separately, there hasn’t been a single call into the Elkader Police Department for a person with a gun, a missing person or an active shooter situation, and as for high risk warrants, while they might take place in other parts of the county, they have not occurred in Elkader, at least during Seitz’s tenure. 


So, how does Seitz justify the department’s involvement on a tactical unit the city might never need? 


“Because if we don’t, and we mess up, it’s going to be millions of dollars in lawsuits. The liability of knowing something can happen, and not preparing, is astronomical,” Seitz said. 


Elkader council member Deb Schmidt shared a similar line of reasoning in support of the tactical unit, stating, “It’s always important to keep ahead of any possible threat to our community. No one is expecting it to happen to them.”


The response brings to mind the situation that happened in Uvalde, Texas, and the incoherent response to that crisis. This tactical unit, having trained and trained with the local departments, fomenting a shared and cohesive universal response to different crises, will, in all likelihood, mitigate disastrous consequences. As Seitz noted, the tactical team would be there as a resource—a preventive measure­—and a forward thinking endeavor in the chance that an Uvalde-level situation ever took place in the county. 


“It allows us to respond to high-risk, low-frequency things that no one wants to prepare for because it never happens. But that’s what every single department that’s had problems has said. And they’ve used it as a justification not to do it, and they get successfully sued…because they were like, ‘Oh it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to happen here.’ That is their fatal flaw and I don’t want that to happen here. I’m not just responsible for what happens. I’m responsible for what might happen and could happen as well,” Seitz said. 


When it comes to the specifics of the unit, a lot is yet to be determined as the sheriff’s office works toward finalizing the effort, selecting a team and coordinating the training process while considering the jurisdictions involved. 


But for all intents and purposes, the initiative appears to be heading toward implementation within the year, and Seitz, as well as the city council, support the effort. 


“I think the intentions are to benefit everyone involved, including the communities and definitely the schools,” Seitz said. “A higher trained officer showing up that’s confident is a very good thing…I’ve always believed that, I firmly believe that. The more well trained an officer is, the better they can help.” 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet