From personnel changes to tackling drug crimes

County sheriffs reflect on 2019, discuss goals for the future

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA, LAKE COUNTIES — The past year has been a busy one for local law enforcement, with police seeing changes in personnel in their departments, new policies and practices and a wide variety of cases crossing their desks.

Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell said one of the biggest changes in 2019 was the addition of K9 Zeke, who has been working with his handler, Deputy Chad Thompson, as a narcotics and tracking dog since the middle of May.

“The addition of the new K9 has been going really well,” Purcell said. “He has done some drug cases and seizures.”

Along with working with K9 Zeke, the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office has put a great emphasis on fighting drug crimes in 2019.

Purcell said there has been a rise in crime involving methamphetamines in the county, including people using and distributing crystal meth.

Looking ahead, Purcell said tackling this issue will be a priority.

“We’ll continue to work with regional drug teams and partners in other counties on the crystal meth problem,” he said.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office also has been putting a focus on drug crimes in the county throughout 2019.

Sheriff Ed Williams said along with meth, heroin also is an issue in Osceola County and surrounding areas.

“These drugs are ruining places all over the U.S.,” he said. “We’re going to do what we can to get rid of it.”

While dealing with different drug crimes and other cases, Osceola County also has seen several personnel changes in the last year, including the addition of a new sheriff.

After several decades in the military and with law enforcement, Williams began working with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in September.

“It is still super exciting,” he said.

In addition to Williams, Osceola County welcomed Evart native, Mark Moore, as the new undersheriff and Russ Wayne as jail administrator.

While many changes defined the past year for Osceola County, Williams said he has several goals for the future as well.

Among these goals is installing video visitation in the jail and making it possible for other law enforcement agencies to rent space in the Osceola County Jail for their inmates, which would help generate income for Osceola County.

“There’s a lot of people excited about the future of the sheriff’s office,” Williams said.

Deputies with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office also were busy this year, with successes of 2019 including the hiring of several new road patrol deputies, the purchase of a new marine patrol boat through private donations and the establishment of a school resource officer for Baldwin Community Schools.

Sheriff Rich Martin explained one of the highlights of the year was the creation of the Explorer Division, a program for students ranging from seventh grade through young adults under 21 to learn more about working with the police.

Martin said finding new ways to engage children and teens in the community has been one of the main focuses of 2019, and will continue to be in 2020.

“When there’s nothing for teens to do, they can end up getting in trouble,” he said.

Martin added while there are a few, there are not many recreation centers or programs for young people in the community.

“The biggest thing I’m trying to do is motivate people in the community to do more programs for children,” he said.