Clay sheriff breaks down 2023 by the numbers

Clay County Commision

Dan Haglund

Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting delivered his department’s annual update for the Clay County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday in Moorhead by starting with some personnel changes and additional duties.
Empting’s department added a third K9 unit last year with the hiring of Deputy Zach Johnson. Johnson was already partnered with K9 Kash as a Moorhead Police officer., and the tandem joined the Sheriff’s Office two months ago.
Empting has also been selected to be on the Legislative Committee and Executive Board for the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.
A Community Service Officer is in the process of being hired, as the closing date for applicants was last Friday, and will report to Clay Chief Deputy Chris Martin.
Also, new last year was a Chaplain Program with John Bedore and David Juve to enhance deputy wellness.
Empting next explained to the board that Operations Division, headed by Lt. Josh Schoeder, is a combination of what were separate entities until last year: Patrol and Investigations. There are currently 11 deputies here, and the department is still looking to fill one more spot. There are also four sergeants, two School Resource Deputies (one in Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and one in Ulen-Hitterdal. The SRO program was put on hold at the beginning of the school year last summer but it may be coming back after additional legislative hearings in St. Paul.
Also in the department, there are four investigators, one investigative sergeant and one investigative roster deputy.
The Support Services Division is headed by Lt. Chad Hagen, who has three transport deputies, two civil process deputies, three court security deputies, one sergeant Nicole Reno, and six roster deputies – court security.
The Emergency Management Division is headed up by Lt. Gabe Tweten, under which Reno works as well.
The Corrections Division is lead by Jail Administrator Kari Tuton, who has an assistant Katie Johnson, administrative Sgt. Cody Benson, four shift sergeants, 45 full-time correctional officers including four corporals, and nine roster correctional officers.
Under an Operation Division review, the department totaled 25,186 incidents last year, a 5.7 percent increase over 2022 (23,830 incidents).
The two K9 teams had one criminal apprehension, 12 non-physical criminal apprehensions, four area searches, four building searches, 14 vehicle searches, 10 package sniffs, 11 tracks and two public demonstrations. They conducted sniffs at the jail, logged many hours of training time, attended advanced tracking courses, passed their certification trials, and assisted with seizing narcotics.
There are four Clay deputies assigned to the Red River Valley SWAT team, which is made up of Tactical, Bomb and Crisis Negotiations. The Tactical team responded to 24 call-outs last year, Bomb had 45 and Negotiations had 21.
The Operations Division removed the following illegal drugs from our community last year: 208.27 pounds of marijuana, 46.67 pounds of methamphetamine, 16,88 pounds of marijuana wax, 49,620 dosing units of Counterfeit Blue M30 Fentanyl pills, 6.94 pounds of black tar heroin, 6.23 pounds of cocaine, 3.4 pounds of psilocybin mushrooms and 2.11 pounds of Fentanyl powder. Also, 26 firearms were removed from individuals and $685,261 in cash was seized.
The total monetary value of the illegal drugs seized in 2023 was wholesale $1,627,317 with street prices of $3,666,078.
The total pharmaceuticals recovered from pill drop boxes located in Dilworth, Glyndon, Ulen and Barnesville totaled 232 pounds last year.
The number of cases investigated increased by more than 30 percent from 2022 to last year, to a total of 462. These cases range from jail background checks to serious assaults, juvenile sex assaults, elder abuse, and various other incidents. Clay investigators also assist other agencies on large-scale cases such as homicides and multijurisdictional narcotics cases.
Commissioner Kevin Campbell, Dist. 4, said with public safety funds last year from the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) directed at helping law enforcement, there were glowing reviews of what Clay County has done to best utilize the monetary infusion.
“AMC was very impressed with what Clay County has done with those dollars,” Campbell said. “Personally, I want to thank you and I think on behalf of the board, that anytime we get that kind of compliment from the state level, you guys need to be recognized.”

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