Interview – Albert Torres, Candidate Lyon County Sheriff
LYON COUNTY SHERIFF – ALBERT TORRES
These interviews are being posted on NewsDesk by Nancy Dallas (www.ndbynd.com) . Reposting of any interview by interested parties must include the disclaimer the interview was originally posted in this publication. Questions or comments may be directed to Nancy Dallas at email@example.com or 775-847-0129.
There are four candidates in this Primary race. The two candidates receiving the most votes will face off in the General Election. These interviews are being posted in alphabetical order.
1. Give a brief summation of your professional and political background.
I have worked as a public servant for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years. In 1992 I started in the jail and after 2 ½ years transferred to Silver Springs as a Patrol Deputy. While in Silver Springs I was promoted to Corporal, then Sergeant, and worked out of that station for 13 years until I was promoted to Lieutenant in charge of the Fernley Station in 2008. In 2010 I was promoted to Field Services Captain, which oversees operations in all divisions except the Jail and Dispatch. In 2013 I was promoted again, this time as the Undersheriff, which is the position I currently hold.
I am a registered Republican with conservative views on protecting the Constitutional Rights of all citizens, keeping the Federal Government in check with their presence and authority in State and County issues, while remembering that the position of Sheriff is a non-partisan position, that answers directly to the citizens and every citizen deserves the same high level of customer service and professionalism.
2. Why are you running for this position?
I believe that through my experience and education, and my personal knowledge of the needs and wants of each unique community in Lyon County, I am the only choice to be the next Sheriff. I have the ability to lead the Sheriff’s Office and Lyon County where it needs to go with innovative ideas that are cost effective, reduce liability, and allow the citizens the direct input to tell me what their needs are and what they would like from the Sheriff’s Office. I have prepared for the position of Sheriff my entire career and I have led by example, held myself and my staff to high expectations and will continue to do so as the next Sheriff of Lyon County. I want the opportunity to make this an even more professional, higher caliber agency that others continue to look to as an example.
3. What makes you more qualified to serve in this position than your opponents?
I have a real working knowledge of all aspects of the LCSO. Having been a Jail Deputy, Patrol Deputy, Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Field Services Captain and Undersheriff, I know what each one of those positions does, the responsibilities of each position, the equipment and staffing needs of each position, the risks and downsides to each position and the budget costs and liability of each position. I am also the only candidate that has supervised every division within the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, including sworn and non-sworn employees. I have hands on experience with the budget, employee contracts involving sworn and non-sworn employees, human resources experience, FMLA, ADA, and workers comp experience. I have a degree in Criminal Justice and I am the only candidate to attend the FBI National Academy, which accepts less than 1% of all applicants worldwide.
I am also the only candidate who is a native Nevadan, raised in Lyon County and whose family was raised in Lyon County, giving me a real connection to the citizens and allowing me firsthand knowledge of the needs and desires in each community in Lyon County.
4. What do you expect to spend on this campaign? Do you intend to spend your own money? To what degree?
I am expecting to spend about $3000.00-$5000.00 on my campaign, with half of that out of my own pocket. I am taking campaign contributions but I am very selective in whose contributions I accept. Even though every candidate has to declare contributions with the Secretary of State, I want to make sure mine are transparent and that people are very clear that special interests are not buying me and I will not owe any donor special favors or any breaks.
5. What are the three to four most challenging issues facing the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office?
Our number one issue is the lack of sufficient manpower throughout the County. The average ratio for a Sheriff’s Office nationally is 2.5 sworn staff per 1000 citizens. The ratio for Lyon County is 1.5 per 1000. By being a full person below average we have to stifle our preventive services in order to keep our basic services, such as Patrol and Detention, operating.
A second issue we face is preparing for the growth of the county that we believe is in the near future. We don’t want to make the mistake of not having sufficient plans in place for the next population boom. When Fernley and Dayton exploded in the 2000’s, the LCSO was not given sufficient manpower to operate with a growing population, causing us to always be behind and leaving us to play catch up even now. If the plans for the mine south of Yerington come to fruition we could find ourselves doing it again. Not only is the possibility there for this to affect Yerington and Mason Valley, but it could also cause Smith Valley, Silver Springs and Fernley to grow in population along with the daily traffic commuters and consumers bring to those areas. Along with more people there will be more crime and calls for service.
Elko and Eureka are perfect examples of this happening right now.
The third and fourth biggest issues we face are most often linked together and they are drugs and gangs. When either of these is present crime rates increase. People on drugs usually are not working a regular job to support their habits so they resort to burglary and robbery. By putting a large amount of pressure on users and dealers through proactive measures and providing the District Attorney with good, prosecutable cases, we can reduce the number of these people living in our community. I also feel that increasing our Gang programs can have the same result. We do not want any part of Lyon County to be a desirable place for gang members to conduct business and commit crimes. The Narcotics Division, Gang Unit and Tri-County Gang Unit all do a very good job battling these elements now, but we need to enhance the number of people doing those jobs to do an even better job as we strive to continually improve.
6. It is not arguable the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office needs additional staffing. Where is the greatest need for staffing increases and how would you intend to utilize new personnel?
During last year’s budget meetings the Lyon County Board of Commissioners asked us to prepare and present a best case scenario on manpower requests and the costs at this year’s budget meeting. Those numbers were 50 new employees at a cost of just over $3 million.
The employees were 19 for Field Services which is Patrol, Detectives, Narcotics and Youth Services, 18 sworn Jail staff, with the rest going to non-sworn positions such as Dispatch, Control Room Operators, and Administrative Support staff. I fully understood that we were not going to get all 50 nor could we hire that many new staff in a year due to training and hiring guidelines.
It was fortunate this year that the Commissioners agreed we needed additional staffing but the budget is still recuperating so we were given 1 Jail Deputy Position, 1 Dispatcher and 1 Administrative Support staff. In order to benefit the Jail and Patrol I am going to have the new position work from 6 pm to 2 am and they will be available to travel to Silver Springs to pick up an arrestee. This will allow a Patrol Deputy to return to his/her area in less than half the time it takes to travel to and from booking now. The Jail gains the additional staff while allowing Patrol a quicker opportunity to be available for calls.
With additional staffing goals of 3-5 per year for the next four to eight years, I would increase staffing in Narcotics, Detectives, Patrol and the Jail. Each one of these areas needs the additional manpower and with that manpower we can reduce the amount of overtime spent covering shifts, and enhances our proactive measures in Narcotics and Gangs. As the manpower increases in the sworn divisions, the number of calls going into and coming out of Dispatch will increase so the number of support staff needed in Dispatch, Records, Civil and Training will increase too.
7. Can staffing increases be made within the current Sheriff’s budget? Explain.
I believe staffing increases can be made within the current budget. The current Budget year of 2013-2014 will see overtime costs in the neighborhood of $1 million dollars. We were able to stay within the overall budget due to having cost savings in other areas and using smart, responsible purchasing decisions along with writing several grants to purchase needed equipment. If we were able to take that million dollars and put most of it towards hiring additional staff, we could lower the overtime costs in all areas, reduce the burnout rate of our staff, and have additional resources to combat the narcotics and gang issues throughout the county.
As I mentioned above, we were able to take $166,000.00 of the money spent in overtime to hire a Jail Deputy, a Dispatcher and an additional person for the front office starting in July of 2014 for the 14’-15’ fiscal year.
8. The Lyon County crime rate has increased considerably. What strategies will you develop to lower the overall county crime rate?
One important point is the FBI discourages the use of UCR data as a measurement of law enforcement effectiveness due to the data being very subjective with a good deal of interpretation, starting with the call taker all the way to the person entering the data.
One reason you will see an increase in the numbers from 2011 to 2012 in the UCR reports is due to a change in how we gathered data. In November of 2011 the LCSO went to a new computer program that allowed the entire agency to use one system. Everything from how we conduct evidence inventory to how we dispatch calls, write reports and gather information from those reports was changed. The old system was outdated by at least a decade.
With this change, almost all calls taken by Dispatch automatically generated a report for the Deputy. We continued this for a full two years in order to effectively measure the new system and to remain consistent in how we conduct business. Since almost every call was generating a report, the number of reports taken, written and entered into the UCR data increased substantially. In February of 2014 we modified this in order to give the Patrol Deputy more discretion on whether or not certain reports needed to be written. This also allowed the Patrol Deputy more time on the street to patrol and be more of a presence, and allow us to gather statistics more accurately.
Even with these changes we did see an increase in crime, especially property crimes. Since crime is a social problem and not just a law enforcement problem, the work to reduce crime involves everyone. Lyon County still has the highest unemployment in the State and Nevada is number 50 out of 51 with the worse level of unemployed. Top that with population density and a transient lifestyle in some communities and crime increases.
I will continue to work with Human Services and the Healthy Communities Coalition to find ways to help get many of these people back on track. I also believe that increasing the pressure on gang members and drug dealers will lower the crime rate and I want to start a Drug Canine Unit to work drug interdiction on the highways going through our county. If we make our county an unpleasant place for criminals to live in, they will move elsewhere or spend time off of the streets in our jail and prisons.
If we are able to increase our manpower the crime rate statistics will go up due to the additional staff writing more reports, making more arrests, issuing more citations and initiating more self-generated proactive law enforcement.
9. How would you intend to create an atmosphere of public trust and confidence between the citizens and Lyon County law enforcement?
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office has made it a practice to continually take an active role in every community in Lyon County and I have always been a large part of that. We have and will continue to have a presence at the town board and city council meetings throughout the county.
We take part in Special Olympics, the LCSO Life Vest give away during Memorial Day weekend, fund raisers for local animal shelters, events and fund raisers for Lyon County Schools, and events and fund raisers that benefit Northern Nevada. We have several volunteer organizations in the LCSO such as our Reserve Deputy program, Volunteers in Policing and Search and Rescue. In 2013 these three volunteer programs that are mostly made up of Lyon County citizens, worked almost 17000 man hours for the citizens of Lyon County.
I personally attend most of these events along with teaching a safety class for any group that has requested it, I have lunch at every Senior Center on a monthly basis, speak at civic group functions, take part in the Walk to School event each year, and started the school safety program in 2001 that has grown into a model other school districts, the state and other law enforcement agencies have built their programs off of.
The LCSO has continued the GREAT Program even during the roughest budget cuts by utilizing a Reserve Deputy that is also a trainer of other GREAT instructors and nationally recognized. This was done at less than 20% of the cost of a full time Deputy.
The LCSO works closely with Lyon County Human Services to assist them and to assist those they provide services to. We also work with the Healthy Communities Coalition to meet the shared goal of helping many people who are unable to help themselves or may be down and out temporarily. I have brought Mental Health First Aid training to Lyon County which is the first rural county to have this training available to them and I have spearheaded the Jail Diversion Program for the LCSO which will allow non-violent offenders with substance abuse and mental health issues to receive the mental health care they need and the ability to have a case manager keep them on track.
Not only will we continue fostering our relationship with the citizens of Lyon County through these measures, I will ensure that we expand our reach as those of the county expand as different programs and ideas come to light and within my budget and resources.
10. With the reality of dealing with gangs and narcotic related type crimes becoming increasingly challenging and threatening to our quality of life, how do you propose to deal with these issues the next 4 years?
I want to increase the number of staff in Narcotics and the Gang Unit, as well as the Patrol Division and start a Canine Program focused on drugs and drug interdiction. I
have already had our Gang Unit conducting area saturation throughout the county, along with the Street Enforcement Team, and the Tri-County Gang Task Force. I will not only continue with this type of saturation in problem areas but I plan on increasing the frequency.
Here again, I know through experience that by continuing to be a proactive agency we can reduce the number of gang related crimes in our county by making Lyon County an unfavorable place for them to live and conduct their illegal business such as drug dealing.
11. In your opinion, what is the public image of the Sheriff’s Office in the eyes of Lyon County residents?
Since 2001 I have been attending city council and town board meetings throughout Lyon County in order to give the LCSO monthly reports and receive information on the weak areas of the agency and kudos the citizens give us. I have also spoken with business owners, school district employees, including administrators, other Lyon County department heads, and citizens in every area from every walk of life and I can say without any doubt that our approval rating is very high.
The level of professionalism and customer service our employees give to the citizens of Lyon County is very high and has continued to improve every year over the past 22 years I have worked here. It has been a team effort to set a high standard of expectations, hold everyone accountable from the top down, and then meet those standards. An example of this is the fact that in 2013 the LCSO handled almost 100,000 calls for service but had only 25 Internal Complaints filed. Those 25 complaints include personnel complaints generated from inside the Sheriff’s Office. That number is impressive for any size agency and I am proud of the dedicated men and women that work at the LCSO.
We are not perfect and we have made and will continue to make mistakes on all levels. We will also make sure we learn from those mistakes so we can exceed the standards and provide the best possible service to all of the citizens of Lyon County.
12. Do you believe there is a need for costly improvements/changes made in regards to the operation of the new jail facility? Explain.
I believe there is a need for improvements to staffing in the jail. Of course there will be a cost to any additional staffing and those costs come in the form of wages and benefits.
The additional staffing needs are not new, the jail was understaffed when we were in the old jail and it is understaffed now. The new jail was badly needed as we dealt with standing sewage in housing areas and water running through the light standards whenever it rained. It was only a matter of time before an inmate filed a successful lawsuit for the living conditions or the jail was overseen by the Justice Department.
When any building is built there are inherent problems that need to be fixed no matter how big or small. The major issues with the new jail have been handled under warranty or as an issue with the initial design and engineering such as the HVAC problems.
Many of these problems were brought to the attention of the engineers and builders before the end of construction and were ignored and the county may have to resort to litigation in order to get these design and/or installation mistakes corrected.
13. It has been an ongoing debate as to whether deputies should be allowed to take department vehicles home or not. What is your position on this issue?
The current policy is if a Deputy lives in Lyon County and lives in the area of their duty station they are allowed to take a unit home. This allows for the Deputy to be called out for an emergency call, and gives them a faster response time to that call.
If a Lieutenant or Sergeant lives in Lyon County, no matter where their duty station is, they get to take a unit home. The reason for this is our supervisors are supervisors throughout the county, no matter where they live in the county. I
f a Deputy is assigned to a special detail such as Detectives or Narcotics, they are allowed to take a unit home. Those assigned to one of these details is expected to be available even more often for call out, due to the nature of their assignments, and responsibility to the entire county on major crimes.
I believe this is a good practice and I will continue it as the next Sheriff. Several agencies throughout the U.S. offer a take home car as a bonus for their Patrolmen to live in high crime areas as it is viewed as a deterrent to the criminals and a presence for the citizens. I believe this to be true in Lyon County as well and have been told by the large majority of citizens that they like to have the patrol car visible on their street, and in their neighborhoods.
14. What efforts, if any, would you take to make the Sheriff’s Office a presence within our public schools?
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office is very involved and a daily presence in our schools now and I will continue to make sure that practice continues.
We are the truancy officers for the school district, handle calls for service and conduct walk throughs at the request of each schools administration, provide security for special events such as dances and sporting events on a contractual basis and conduct traffic enforcement saturation in school zones using our regular Deputies and our Volunteers in Policing.
In 2001 I started the LCSO School Safety Program in cooperation with the Lyon County School District. This program started with our SWAT Team going through all of the schools in Lyon County in order to get a first-hand view of the layout of the schools and school grounds in case we were unfortunate to have an active shooter situation.
After working with the schools at this level, we were able to gain their respect and trust by our professionalism and competence, allowing us to hold active shooter emergency drills while school was in session. The idea behind this was if we did have such an incident the school administrations, teachers and students would know who we were, what we looked like and would be much more likely to listen to our directions as we secured the school. I didn’t want to show up and have anyone afraid of us and put themselves more at risk, especially our kids.
This program has continued to expand to all Lyon County buildings and the employees having to go through safety and evacuation drills. It has also become a model program in the State as other law enforcement agencies and school districts look at what we have done to build a program for their areas. This program could not have started without the trust and cooperation of the Lyon County School District Administration and the Lyon County School Board, and I already have the relationship and knowledge of both entities to continue our focus on making our children as safe as possible.
15. If there is an issue of concern to you that has not been addressed in your responses above, here is your chance to elaborate.
As we get closer to early voting and the Primary, it is important to remember a few things in the Sheriff’s election.
I am the only candidate with 22 years of working experience and knowledge of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office.
I am the only candidate to have worked in every division, took part in every role and supervised in every capacity in order to be properly prepared to be the Sheriff.
I am the only candidate to be a Nevadan, raised in Lyon County, whose family was raised in Lyon County and who has raised his family in Lyon County, giving me the knowledge of what all of Lyon County needs but also a true ownership that the citizens of Lyon County are also my friends, family and neighbors.
I will protect your Constitutional Rights, I will provide the highest level of customer service and I will lead the Sheriff’s Office with integrity into the next four years and the next decade. I will not let you down.