Within the State of Wisconsin there have been numerous situations over the years in which a person, an employee, a county board, or even a State government agency has questioned a Sheriffs authority. In these instances, neither the Wisconsin Constitution nor the statutes clearly define all of the authority, rights or duties of the office. As a result, various courts have had to review the general context of the litigation and then interpret and define the statutory and/or constitutional language. The Attorney General, in opinions issued by his office, also interprets the same language in an attempt to define the authority and responsibility of the Sheriff.
Authority of the Sheriff - The most notable and referenced “Sheriff’s Authority” Wisconsin Supreme Court decision is Andreski v. Industrial Commission, 261 Wis. 234 52 N.W. 2nd 135; (1952). In the Andreski case the court was very clear, firm, and definitive when describing the Sheriff’s Authority. The court said:
“Within the field of his responsibility for the maintenance of law and orderthe sheriff today retains his ancient character and is accountable only to the sovereign, the voters of his county, though he may be removed by the Governor for cause. No other county official supervises his work or can they require a report or an accounting from him concerning his performance of his duty. He chooses his own ways and means of performing it. He divides his time according to his own judgment of what is necessary and desirable but is always subject to call and is eternally charged with maintaining the peace of the county and the apprehension of those who break it.”
Even though the Andreski court decision was made a half-century ago, it is often referenced in other court, and Attorney General opinions. The Andreski case reinforced the Sheriffs authority by saying “a Sheriffs work, his methods and his hours, are carried out as he sees fit.”
In light of these occasional challenges, Wisconsin Sheriffs place a high priority on maintaining a professional level of service in every field of responsibility. To accomplish this task, Sheriffs realize the importance of team work, cooperation, and coordination. As such, a strong working relationship between Sheriffs and other county officials and agencies result in a high quality of service to the public they serve.
Todays BSSA - Wisconsin Sheriffs face a wide variety of concerns that years ago could not be imagined. Ongoing threats to our Nation and our State have Sheriffs planning and preparing for situations they never dreamed of just a few years ago. Changes in technology require detailed attention. Continued budget cuts on the state level require each County and Sheriff to look for efficiency in every service and community program that is provided.
Today, the BSSA remains a strong and active association within the State of Wisconsin. Meetings and training sessions are held quarterly, throughout the state. In February, the BSSA will meet in Madison, WI where the Sheriffs training will focus on State and Federal resources available to assist the Office of Sheriff. For the remainder of the year, the BSSA plans to meet in May, August and December. Each meeting and training session will be designed to help individual Sheriffs serve the citizens they are elected to protect.
The current officers of the BSSA are: President, Sheriff David Kaminski of Rusk County, 1st Vice-President, Sheriff Brent Oleson of Juneau County, 2nd Vice-President, Sheriff Kim Gaffney of Marquette County, Past President, Sheriff Steve Michek of Iowa Ciounty, Secretary, Sheriff Todd Nehls of Dodge County, Treasurer, Sheriff John Gossage of Brown County.
Within the past couple of years, the BSSA has developed a Sheriffs resource data base called Sheriffs Helping Sheriffs. This secure records system allows all Wisconsin Sheriffs access to valuable information specific to each Sheriffs personnel and equipment resources. In the event of a local or regional emergency, Sheriffs in the impacted area have immediate access to area resource information.
October 29, 2012 - "Sheriffs Adopting Sheriffs" - In early November, the BSSA coordinated a Hurricane Sandy relief effort to assist four (4) "adopted" Sheriffs employees from the Union County New Jersey Sheriffs Office. Sheriffs and Sheriffs employees from across the State of Wisconsin raised and sent over $36,000 in financial assistance to the Union County NJ Sheriffs employees who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Our Sheriffs and Sheriffs employees made us all very proud.
Message From The President - It is an honor and a privilege to represent the Wisconsin Sheriff’s as President of the Badger State Sheriffs’ Association. While every County may be different in many aspects, the Office of Sheriff is very consistent whether you are from a very large or very small rural county. The Sheriff is elected by the citizens of their county to maintain the peace, run the jail, and serving both criminal and civil process. The Sheriff decides how best to meet these statutory obligations, something Sheriff’s do not take for granted.
As most counties have their own unique issues, the most consistent around the state is budgetary shortfalls. Sheriff’s are tasked with meeting these budgetary shortfalls while still being able to provide a service to our citizens and maintaining public safety. Being the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the County is a very big responsibility but our Wisconsin Sheriff’s are very professional and up to the task. Each Sheriff is able to reach out to the Badger State Sheriffs’ Association for assistance and to be able to maintain a level of service that our citizen expect and deserve.
I am proud to be a part of such a valuable resource in the Badger State Sheriffs’ Association and I will continue to work hard to keep the Constitutional and Statutory Authority of the Sheriff in place as the Sheriff’s have in the past.
Our most recent "Sheriffs Adopting Sheriffs" hurricane relief project demonstrates the outstanding character and commitment Wisconsin Sheriffs and many of their employees have to helping others. I look forward to working for and representing the BSSA over the next two years.
Sheriff David Kaminski, President
Badger State Sheriffs' Association