Sheriff holds hat over ring

With a filing period for candidates coming in May, Carson City Sheriff Rod Banister said he hasn't decided yet if he is going to run or retire.

"I have a couple of months left to make that decision," Banister said Tuesday from his office. "I've talked about retirement. I'm eligible for it, but I haven't decided yet. There's a lot of time left."

Banister, 48, took office in January 1995 after winning the November 1994 election.

He has been with the Sheriff's Department for 27 years, starting as a dispatcher at 20 and becoming a street deputy at 21.

In recent years, his office and in particular the man himself has received criticism surrounding a case in which contractor Ron Weddell claimed the Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office arrested him because they had a vendetta against him.

Weddell eventually circulated a petition and gathered enough signatures to convene a grand jury that returned three indictments, although all were later dismissed.

Banister said those criticisms aren't valid but an expected part of the position.

"I don't think the Sheriff's Office did anything wrong. I think the courts have upheld that," he said. "I don't have any problem with criticism if it's just and deserved, but we didn't do anything wrong here."

Banister said he is proud of the improvements the department has made in the course of his tenure as sheriff.

The implementation of drug dogs, motorcycle officers for traffic enforcement and bicycle officers in summer, in addition to a new dispatch center, have all been put into place in the last seven years Banister has been at the helm.

He believes the biggest obstacle for the department to overcome is a shortage in officers and the disparity in wages between local firefighters and deputies.

"If you look at the number of calls for service we have and the number of detectives we have, we need more people. Unfortunately, it all comes down to money. If you compare the two, firefighters here make a lot more money than police officers."

Banister said that issue is handled by the Sheriff's Deputy's Association in contract negotiations. "But I certainly believe a sheriff's deputy should be making at least what a firefighter is making."

According to last year's budget requests for Carson City, a new firefighter is hired at around $60,000 with benefits, while a sheriff's deputy's starting wage with benefits is $50,000 or less.

He believes the biggest challenge in the coming years will be finding a new home for the department. Building costs have been estimated at $6 million.

"This building is going to be an issue in the next four years. In the last board meeting we got the approval for a new record management system. I don't see any point in putting a whole bunch of money into designs (for a new department) until they come up with the funding for it," he said.


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