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Letters to The Platteville Journal for Jan. 2
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Guns and schools

My heart goes out to the parents and residents of Newton, Conn. The murder of innocent children is one of the worst things that can happen in a society such as ours.

I do not believe that making new laws on law-abiding citizens will make anybody safer. We have tried that before and one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

One way to avoid mass shootings in our schools is to allow those with concealed carry permits to have a place in their classrooms or lockers where they can have their weapons in a locked drawer. The Principal or Superintendent of the school should have a complete list and the Justice Department should have an advanced course for those in our schools that would defend our children.

Shootings in public places like schools, theaters, and malls are rare but we must not allow it to happen here. Giving a limited number of people the tools necessary to stop a mass murderer is the proper and least disruptive way to do it.

Dennis Lundell
10285 Billings Road, Livingston

Deputies’ benefits

The Grant County Board should not have raised the deductible for health insurance on law enforcement officers who are not paying into the Wisconsin Retirement System.

This was not a choice of law enforcement, but the governor and the Legislature, which passed the law that exempted us. Maybe there is a reason they did that; I don’t know their reasoning.

I don’t know how many times I have had a citizen and taxpayer tell me that they would not want my job or how many times I have been told that we don’t make enough money for what we do.

I keep hearing that making us pay more for our deductible will make us more equitable with other employees of the county. Well, first, I am not taking away from any other employee of the county, but I do want to bring up a couple of points.

Our job does not consist of an eight-hour day. Nor are we inside every day. We do not work Monday through Friday and have every weekend off. In the summertime we do not get a three-day weekend every weekend. We do not get paid to be on call. Several other departments get these additional benefits. Yes, our deputies get one more holiday, and that is New Year’s Eve.

I keep hearing this is about equality with all the employees, but yet the county is doing a pay equity study, or so I am told because when I was told it was a wage study I was quickly corrected. Why are we not waiting to see what that study says before making this change? This is already in the budget, and it is not going to cost the county anything different.

A lot of times the deputies or the sergeants or even the administration have to make a decision within seconds. We do not have the luxury of sitting in the office and making phone calls to attorneys or other people prior to us making that decision. Right or wrong, that decision has to be made now.

I would like to bring up an incident from last year. It was about 4:30 p.m. the night before Thanksgiving. I stopped at a friend’s house, who is a farmer, to talk with him and wish him and his family a happy Thanksgiving. I was there for a few minutes when my phone rang. I was told we had a bad accident. One was dead and possibly two others who weren’t in good shape. I said I would be en route. I told my friend I had to go because of the fatal. He stated to me you don’t get paid enough to do something like that. I told him thanks and left.

On the way, I called the sheriff to let him know what was going on. The sheriff was with his wife in Bloomington doing some family things. He said he would be on his way. Because of the seriousness of the accident and the unknown of what we had, I called my captain. The captain was getting ready to leave with his family to go to Iowa to spend Thanksgiving with his parents. I asked him to come out and help, putting his family on the back burner and his Thanksgiving on hold. We called a detective to assist and take pictures. The detective was with his son going to see friends. This was also put on hold.

We also had the State Patrol come in to reconstruct the accident scene. They also had to put their Thanksgiving plans on hold. It took them about an hour to get there and about three hours to do the reconstruction.

Parents were already at the accident scene when I arrived. I found out they were the parents of the deceased. I asked the captain to notify the parents that their 15-year-old daughter had died. How do you do it? What do you say? Tons of things are going through your head.

The sheriff’s wife and the detective’s son sat in my truck while we were doing our jobs. The wife and son should not have to have been there and seen this.

After being at the accident for several hours, I headed home. On the way, I kept thinking of my kids, one 16 with
her driver’s license, one who’s 13 and twins who are 11. I got home around 10 p.m. I pulled into the garage and my 16-year-old comes out to the garage and she’s crying. She says, Dad, why do you have to go to those things? You shouldn’t have to see that. What do you say? I told her it was my job.

On Thanksgiving Day, two of my detectives went back out to the accident scene to finish up and take pictures during the daylight hours. They were out there for about two hours. They got paid overtime. After everything is taken out of their checks, they made about $45 for doing something not for themselves, but for the Sheriff’s Department and the county in making sure everything was done.

Just to back up a little bit: Everything that was done that night did not cost the county hardly anything. The sheriff, myself, and the captain do not get overtime. All the EMTs, firefighters that were there for the accident and then stayed to help us out, the state troopers who came down at no cost to the county … all this I’m sure interrupted their night before Thanksgiving.

A deputy who was shot and killed, a deputy and state inspector who were shot at a search warrant, a deputy who was chased by a guy with a knife, two jailers who were beaten in the jail (one who was in the hospital more than a week), a deputy who fought with a subject for so long that he was physically drained but kept fighting, a dispatcher who takes a call from a subject who said he killed his girlfriend, or from a screaming person who they cannot understand but have to be able to keep their cool and find out what’s going on and dispatch the right people …

I bring these up because which other employees handle these types of situations? But the county wants to talk about being equal.

Now add all these things on top of all the day-to-day things that we deal with. Handle a mailbox vandalism, now go to a suicidal subject with a gun, or go fro a call where a husband threatens to kill his wife with a knife, and have a lot of paperwork to do because he’s in jail, and get sent to a call where someone wants a deer tagged or because a neighbor’s dog comes over and takes a dump in someone’s yard. Now recompose yourself because your stress level is through the roof because you drove 100 mph to get to the call before the husband stabs his wife. And now you have to try and talk to the owner of the dog and have him pick up the deposit the dog left behind. Or you are working on an identity theft case, which takes several hours, and now you have to investigate a 40-year-old who sexually molests a 13-year-old girl or boy. These cases happen several times a year.

The reason I bring all this up is because you cannot compare their jobs to ours. You cannot compare apples to oranges. You cannot sit here and say that we are equal or should be considered to be equal to other county employees. Maybe this is the reason why our governor and the Legislature decided not to have us pay for our share of benefits. Making us pay for our health insurance deductible because we do not have to pay our share of WRS seems like you’re just saying we’ll get you one way or the other.

The county’s labor attorney has said just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A county board member at the November county board meeting was talking about Act 10 and all the things the county had to change, said whether you like it or not, it’s the law of the land. Well, you cannot use it both ways.

Jack R. Johnson
Chief Deputy, Grant County Sheriff’s Department

Johnson’s letter is excerpted from a statement he gave at the December Grant County Board meeting.

The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters the Journal feels are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of the Platteville Journal.