Kelliher Council Hears Complaints Regarding Law Enforcement Issues

Blackduck American

The Kelliher City Council met in the council chambers at city hall for its regular meeting Sept. 8.

Mayor Darin Latterell called the meeting to order with council members Laura Nelson, Victoria Rabe and Don Erickson present. Council Member Ramona Gehlert arrived later in the meeting.

Also present were staff members City Clerk Dianna Thurlow and Assistant City Clerk Peggy Vollhaber. Others present included Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp, Deputy Scott Wherley, Tina and Wade Rennemo, Lori and Ross Rennemo, Glen and Carey Grundmeier, Rick and Mary Thayer, Dorothy Schuh and her minor children and Wally Rennemo.

Complaints were addressed to the council, Sheriff Hodapp and Deputy Wherley regarding increasing levels of brazen reckless driving and loud exhausts on ATVs, motorcycles and motor vehicles.

It was the overall consensus of the guests in attendance and the council that there is a need for greater law enforcement presence in the Kelliher area to curb such activities, especially in consideration of a recent incident that escalated to violence against a citizen.

It was also emphasized that this was important in consideration of the past monies taken from the PILT fund to specifically provide for a deputy for the north half of the county.

Deputy Wherley responded by informing the audience that he and another deputy spend significant time in the area, although not all of it is directly in Kelliher, as they have to patrol the other communities in northern Beltrami County as well, so even though they may not always be visible, they are active in the area.

Sheriff Hodapp encouraged the public to contact the Sheriff’s Department directly with complaints and that individuals calling must be willing to sign a complaint ticket.

Several members of the audience asked what to do about threats or retaliation, citing the most recent incident and Sheriff Hodapp responded that the Sheriff’s Department should be contacted immediately and notified of the details of any threats or retaliation in response to making or signing a complaint.

Further questions were posed as to the use of warnings rather than citations, with Deputy Wherley’s response being that everyone needs to be treated the same and that warnings have been given in the past but that citations will be issued going forward if that was what the public desired.

The council felt that these incidents were obviously the result of a few individuals and that it would be unfortunate for the more minor transgressors to be cited, but that increased citations were needed to correct the undesirable behaviors.

Deputy Wherley explained his frustrations from the past, where he arrives in the area after a complaint and the activity has ceased and parties are unwilling to sign a complaint ticket.

Hodapp and Wherley reemphasized the need for citizens to contact the Sheriff’s Department directly and that citizens must be willing to sign complaint tickets, as law enforcement cannot file charges if they do not witness the activity first hand unless they have a signed complaint. This is especially significant in consideration of the fact that warnings have not appeared to suffice in the past.

Hodapp added that the area generally exhibits low call volumes and that a greater presence is only warranted by evidence of a greater need (higher complaint call volumes).

The open forum was closed with the council thanking Sheriff Hodapp, Deputy Wherley and the guests for attending. Hodapp, in turn, thanked the council and the community members present for bringing these matters to his attention and for giving him and Deputy Wherley the opportunity to discuss these matters with the public.

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