Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay appeared at last week's meeting of the Freistatt Lions Club at the invitation of President Marty Jenkins to discuss ongoing concerns about the Sheriff's Department and the Ernte Fest. This year the Lions' annual festival fell at the same time as a statewide DWI enforcement campaign, resulting in heavier than usual patrols around the Freistatt event.
"It went very well," DeLay told The Times. "[Talking to the Lions] was something that needed to be done for a long time."
DeLay spoke for about five minutes then responded to a series of submitted questions.
"My main point was I am not out to get the Ernte Fest," DeLay said. "We're not trying to close the festival down. The main purpose is to prevent drinking and driving. If people are drinking and driving, we want to find and arrest them and get them off the road."
The saturation of officers around Freistatt was not because of the Ernte Fest, DeLay said.
|"If there is a large event with alcohol, the percentage of drinking and driving increases. That's why we were there," DeLay said. "Our number one goal is to make sure everyone has a good time and is safe."||Concerns shared with DeLay in conversation included accounts of people being harassed, officers concocting reasons to stop cars and some officers who were rude. Those expressing the concerns specified that they knew the Lawrence County officers and their cars. The problems appear to have come from officers from other departments who came to participate in the saturation effort.|
"I hate to hear that about officers," DeLay said. "There were no complaints on our officers. I have to agree younger officers who have not been out that long may not have developed good skills for dealing with people. There would have been a wide variety of experience in the officers out there.
"I couldn't speak for them and I can't take corrective action with other departments' officers," DeLay added.
DeLay said he agreed to work with the Lions in the future. He was very pleased with the way Freistatt Marshal Kevin Davis handled the crowds at the festival with the private security team hired by the Lions.
"We had no calls about fights. What Kevin is doing works great," DeLay said.
Informally, the sheriff said he agreed to have a coupleof deputies' cars at a command post on the festival grounds in the future. Officers will not be working the bier garten but will be in the vicinity.
"We will have an actual presence there again to show we're working together," DeLay said.
Some of the complaints voiced to DeLay had been circulating for some months. He asked that if anyone still has a concern to bring it directly to his attention so that it can be addressed as soon as possible.
"I think it was well worth the time," DeLay said. "Hopefully the meeting alleviated a lot of discontent with us. I hope we can rebuild burned bridges."