by Joni Astrup
Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe would like to put a detective on the Sherburne County Drug Task Force.
The task force is the entity that investigates most of the suspected illegal drug activity in Elk River and the rest of the county, Rolfe said. It includes a sergeant and three detectives from the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office.
Rolfe has requested that an Elk River police officer be trained and assigned to the drug task force as a detective and a new entry-level officer be hired to fill the vacated patrol officer position. But at this point, it is not in the city’s proposed 2014 budget, which will be finalized in December.
A drug task force detective would cost the city close to $100,000 a year in salary and benefits. Rolfe said the city would also need to supply the detective with equipment and a vehicle from the existing fleet. The Sheriff’s Office would provide training, office space and any additional equipment needed.
One of Rolfe’s goals for 2014 is to reduce illegal drug and associated criminal activity in Elk River.
“I think the council is well aware in recent years of the concern with heroin use and abuse and overdoses and subsequent deaths that we’ve experienced in the city,” Rolfe told the council during an Aug. 5 budget work session. “We’re trying to effectively address that.”
There were 11 heroin overdose deaths in Sherburne County in 2012, according to Sheriff Joel Brott. Four of those were in Elk River.
“There certainly is a need, I believe, for some additional resources on the drug task force,” Brott said.
Authorities see different trends in the narcotics world over time, Brott said, with the latest being a spike in heroin use.
Rolfe, meanwhile, said the Sheriff’s Office has wanted the Elk River Police Department to have a member on the county’s Drug Task Force for a long time, and that’s been the Police Department’s goal, as well. About a quarter of the drug cases in Sherburne County originate in Elk River, Rolfe said.
The Sherburne County Drug Task Force was started in 2005, Brott said. The county previously was part of a multi-jurisdictional drug task force.
Brott said the Sheriff’s Office has a great relationship with the Elk River Police Department and Elk River officers provide a number of tips to the drug task force.
“We certainly work them diligently, but I think we really are at a point where we could utilize some additional resources with the Elk River Police Department,” Brott said.
Having that liaison directly connected to the Police Department would also help them zero in on additional drug activity in Elk River, he said.
He compares it to some of the partnerships the Sheriff’s Office has with other entities.
The Sheriff’s Office has an employee assigned to the Violent Offender Task Force in St. Cloud and another one assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency in St. Paul. In both cases, Brott said that helps provide a broader view.
“The drug activity doesn’t stop at the county line,” he said.