Child protection officer may join Pennington County staff

by April Scheinoha

    Pennington County commissioners are considering adding a child protection officer. If the position were approved, the deputy would be shared between the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Pennington County Human Services Department. Commissioners discussed the matter at their meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26.
    “I think it will be a big benefit for our county,” said Sheriff Ray Kuznia.
    The position is expected to spend half of the time at the Human Services Department and half of the time with the sheriff’s office. Kuznia noted that the position may handle courtroom responsibilities at Pennington County District Court on Mondays.
    Both Kuznia and County Attorney Al Rogalla indicated that the uniformed deputy may deescalate the situation for human services staff who respond to such calls.
    “A lot of my child protection cases are meth-driven, not opioid, and that makes me nervous about everyone going into that house,” Rogalla said.
    Rogalla noted the position would also help clear up some confusion for law enforcement involved in child protection cases. He said law enforcement officers are sometimes unsure when a child may or may not be removed from a home.
    Some concerns were raised about whether the deputy would respond to other county law enforcement incidents. Kuznia noted that the deputy would be on-call like all of the other deputies in the sheriff’s office. He used the example of the deputies’ response to the airplane crash days before the County Board meeting. The sheriff’s office had to keep the crash site secure until the National Transportation Safety Board arrived to pick up the downed plane. Kuznia said all of the deputies called to offer their assistance with security.