The Lyon County Commission this month approved the elimination of one sheriff’s deputy position and using the savings to upgrade three existing deputy positions to sergeant positions as well as increasing services and supplies.
Sheriff Frank Hunewill told the board June 2 his goal was to retain as many of his current positions as possible but candidates weren’t applying for open jobs. He opted instead to gain three more supervisors, a group of officers with life and job experience needed now.
“If a detective gets called out to a scene, I don’t have a question who’s in charge because right now a detective is the same rank as a sergeant in terms of status,” Hunewill told the board. “They’re doing a whole lot more intricate work. With a supervisor’s position, I can squash the debate on who’s in charge of a scene.”
Commissioner Ken Gray, representing District 3, presented his questions but worried he had failed the sheriff on securing him the four motorcycles he had requested in April’s American Rescue Plan Act funding the county considered for its various departments. But Hunewill said his staffing request now potentially has more longterm implications.
“Look at it this way: If I take any one of my detectives, it’s not two years, it’s five years for me to get them into current training level,” he said. “We spend thousands of dollars each year to make sure these guys can do what they can do.”
For the LCSO to cover Lyon sufficiently, it’s difficult to identify more officers who want to be promoted and are willing to take on more violent or sensitive cases on a daily basis. County Manager Jeff Page told the board he has been having long discussions with Hunewill on this issue and described the concerns of keeping the department staffed.
“It keeps two years to keep people in the training cycle,” Page said. “Keeping them there, to give them extra cash isn’t enough.”
Hunewill said it takes more than two years to fully train anyone.
“Most of our guys do not want to do sexual assaults every day,” Hunewill said. “They don’t want to do child abuses every day. They don’t want to do those cases. Every once in a while, you do murders and for a little bit, it’s fun. … But if I don’t do something to keep those people, then we have another Naomi (Irion) case.”
Irion, 18, of Fernley last was seen March 12 in the Fernley Walmart parking lot, and her disappearance prompted a significant search by the LCSO and national media attention. Investigators discovered her body two weeks later in Churchill County and authorities arrested suspect Troy Driver. High-profile cases stretch the department’s resources, and Page said daily demands have changed since his 21 years in law enforcement.
“We have to find some way of supporting the sheriff,” Page told the board.
Commissioner Wes Henderson, representing District 1, asked if there was a solution other than to eliminate the deputy’s position, with comptroller Josh Foli saying it costs between $12,000 and $15,000 per sergeant position to be upgraded from a deputy with an additional $67,000 in services and supplies in costs.
“I understand the need you have, sheriff, and I’m sympathetic to that … but I think we need to do this smarter next time,” Henderson said.
“I trust my sheriff as well,” Gray said, “but I had to ask questions.”
The motion passed 5-0.