Churchill County agencies describe program improvements
LVN Editor Emeritus
The monthly meeting of the Churchill Economic Development Authority on Wednesday featured three local agencies describing their improvements to keep Churchill County residents safe with the latest training and technology.
Nathan Strong, CEDA’s executive director, said a safe community attracts new businesses. He said firms looking at Fallon or in the county for expansion or relocation want to know how safe the area is.
For example, the Fallon/ Churchill Volunteer Fire Department is the only volunteer agency that has a top ISO (Insurance Services Organization) rating for most of the area it covers. Assistant Chief Bill Larry said the ISO 1 rating is determined by a third party who evaluates the fire department, community and current insurance rates.
Lawry said the city has an ISO 1 rating, while most of the county has an ISO 3 rating because property is outside a 5-mile radius from the fire station. Prior to the first rating that designated Fallon with ISO 1 in 1995, Lawry said the city was rated at 5, and the county at 7.
“Our last rating was in 2016, and we had 10 days of evaluation, ” he said, describing how ISO representatives look at the department’s training, equipment and communications, for example. “It’s a community effort, not just a fire department effort.”
Lawry said if the area has lower ISO ratings such as a 4 or 5, then property insurance would be two to three times higher than the current premiums.
Additionally, he said firefighters must undergo constant training. New firefighters, for example, must attain their first two ratings and complete instruction over an 18-month period.
“Every year, veteran firefighters also go through annual training,” Lawry said of the current first-responders.
Since Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman was hired in 2008, he has guided the department through rigorous national standards that have been validated by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
The Fallon Police Department received its first accreditation in 2012 and was reaccredited last year.
“CALEA is the most well-known international accrediting agency,” Gehman pointed out, adding the evaluation looks at how the FPD performs and how it reaches each requirement.
Making the department stronger became the lawman’s first major goal after he became chief.
“Why did we do it?” he asked. “We wanted to become one of the best agencies in the country.”
The first step involved the department rewriting policies and procedures before the 2012 accreditation review, a process that took several years. Gehman said CALEA looks at areas such as use of force, personnel recruitment and training, patrol operations, equipment and communications. He said many polices like use of force are of high risk but low frequency.
To illustrate his point, Gehman showed a Powerpoint slide on the number of procedures involved for the pursuit of a motor vehicle and what follow-up steps must be accomplished.
“Writing polices and procedures to meet the standard is only one component,” he said.
CALEA representatives travel to Fallon, review files and meet with FPD personnel. A two-person team then looks through paperwork and interviews residents and community leaders. Gehman said the benefit provides upgraded policy manuals and operations that reflect the best law enforcement practices.
“It allows us to do a complete evaluation of the way we operate,” Gehman said. “Only 1 percent of law enforcement agencies reach the level of accreditation in our division.”
Gehman said only three Nevada police agencies have met CALEA’s standards. He added Las Vegas Metro and Henderson also successfully passed CALEA’s requirements.
“It’s a sense of pride,” he said.
Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter gave an update on the new law enforcement center, which is scheduled to be completed in September and ready for inmate occupancy in December after staff undergoes training with implementing and learning the new technology and equipment.
Trotter said the center will replace an aging facility built in 1973 and is not conducive to housing prisoners.
“The facility was out of date within a decade because of codes and laws,” Trotter said.
For example, the current jail housed on the first floor of the current center on North Maine Street has only one padded cell and one single holding cell, 52 beds (eight for female), and restrictions of classifying inmates.
The new facility on A Street is 35,000 square feet, though, will have room for 72 men and 48 women, an indoor recreation area, two padded cells and multiple holding cells for up to 20 inmates. Trotter said the new facility will house the dispatch center, the patrol division and civil process.
“We’ll have space for annexation in the future, where we’ll bring investigation and the sheriff into the new facility,” he added.
Trotter said state-of-the-art technology will provide for electronic visiting between inmates and their guests and video arraignment.
As with the current facility, the FPD, and the Nevada Highway Patrol will have access to the detention center.