The following is a question-and-answer session with incumbent Sheriff Jack Laurie, Republican who is seeking a third term as Atchison County Sheriff running against Candidate Adam Potts, a Republican. Winner of the upcoming primary receives the Republican nod to face off against former Sheriff John Calhoon, a Democrat, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Q. How long have you worked in law enforcement and in what capacities?
A. Approximately 16 years total. The time periods and positions include:
August 2001-May 2008 Atchison Police Department Patrol Officer, K-9 Officer, and member of SRT; 2011-2012 – Part time Atchison Police Department Patrol Officer; 2012-2013 – Full time Atchison Police Department Patrol Officer; 2013 – 2020 – Currently serving as Sheriff of Atchison County.
Q. What do you feel are the most important responsibilities of a county sheriff?
A. The most important responsibilities as the county sheriff are the duties mandated by state statute. These required duties take priority over all other duties conducted on a day-to-day basis. A few of these duties mandated by state statute are:
Duties, responsibilities and liabilities of having charge and custody of a jail. This includes caring for inmates (meals, medical care, safe living, etc.
Maintaining an inmate calendar/inmate records & providing copies to the courts.
Serving and executing Process, writs, precepts, and orders.
Preserving the peace in the county.
Fiscal responsibility is also very important as well. However, if you do not do what law requires, it can become very expensive for a county.
Q. What experiences and/or training qualifies you for this position?
A. A 17-year career in law enforcement; 7.5 years as Sheriff of Atchison County; college education; National Sheriff’s Institute (NSI) Graduate of 109th Class; a graduate of Kanas Law Enforcement Leadership Academy (Command School) of the KU Public Management Center; and a Certified Public Manager as part of the KU Public Management Center.
Q. What are your most notable achievements in law enforcement?
A. As Sheriff, I have seen the hard work of my employees be rewarded and recognized which I consider to be achievements. One deputy earned the Narcotics Officer of the Year from the Kansas Narcotics Officers Association. I have had two deputies earn the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award (VFW). The previous Undersheriff earned national recognition for “Humane Law Enforcement Award” for leadership in combating illegal animal abuse from the Humane Society of the United States. I have also received multiple emails, letters, and cards thanking the Atchison County Sheriff’s Office and deputies for many different incidents and contacts within the community.
One of the others, is being part of the 800 MHz radio system project for Atchison County. This made it possible for all public safety agencies to communicate on one radio system in Atchison County. All agencies have the ability to communicate to one another.
Another is implementing innovative jail management software, without utilizing tax dollars.
Q. What are three most important issues that need to be addressed regarding Atchison County law enforcement at present and/or within the near future? How do you expect to address those issues?
A. Mental Health is probably the top issue across the nation. According to Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) 17 percent of inmates incarcerated in jails suffer from serious mental illness, and nearly 72 percent of those with serious mental illness in jail, also have a co-occurring substance use disorder. This becomes a problem for county jails on many levels. It requires more training for staff to provide proper medical care, proper medication and accommodations for the safety and care of the individuals while incarcerated. The current wait time to get an inmate into Larned State Hospital for court ordered competency evaluations is about 180 days. These days further delay the court proceedings while the inmate is in the county jail. All of these issues come with a cost to the Atchison County Tax Payers. These issues have been and currently being addressed through the Kansas Sheriff’s Association and other resources across the state.
Two other issues are:
Infrastructure — the Atchison County Jail is now 20 years old and is due for technology upgrades, security hardware upgrades, and updating other obsolete components of the security of the jail. We are currently addressing these issues and to ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff.
The costs of doing business and operating a jail is no exception. Inmate medical, inmate meals, utilities, hygiene, maintenance, and the list goes on. In the past few years, we had the highest population ever in the Atchison County Jail. We had to utilize other county jails for housing inmates, which also came with a cost. The future population of the jail is also unpredictable. We are always looking for ways to minimize these costs but of these costs are out of our control and unpredictable.
Q. What motivates your desire to be Atchison County Sheriff?
A. First, would be the support from my family. My wife and my children are in this as much as I am and I cannot thank them enough.
Having motivated, eager, and dedicated employees who want to make a difference in the community, and knowing what we have achieved in the past 7-and-a-half years speaks for itself. We have many great plans for the future and want to see the success continue.
Q. Do you have any plans to improve or remedy law enforcement and public safety concerns in Atchison County?
A. Since taking office in 2013, we have continuously improved law enforcement and public safety concerns. We have doubled the amount of patrol deputies, provided them with the proper equipment and tools to safely protect the county.
We have made a huge impact on the illegal drug sales in Atchison County by actively investigating drug dealers in the community.
We will continue to address any concerns that may arise in the future.
Q. What’s your personal background like family, schools attended and ties to the community that you would like to share?
A. I am married with two children and reside in rural Atchison County. My wife is from Effingham, and her family members are lifelong residents of the Effingham area.
I am a lifelong resident of Atchison County.
I attended Martin East and Martin West elementary schools, Atchison Junior High School, and Maur Hill Prep. After high school, I graduated from Pittsburg State University, Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, and the KU Public Management Center.