Sheriff’s Office receives ‘Outstanding Agency’ award through Toward Zero Deaths

In recognition of its successful enforcement record and traffic safety activities, the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office has been recognized as one of eight Minnesota “Outstanding Agencies” by the Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety.

On a quarterly basis, law enforcement liaisons for the Office of Traffic Safety nominate two agencies in their region based on enforcement activity, reporting and community education and outreach efforts.

The Isanti County Sheriff’s Office was notified Aug. 4 it received the award for the third-quarter of the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) enforcement grant.

The Sheriff’s Office was nominated for the award by Frank Scherf, Northeast Minnesota Law Enforcement Liaison, Office of Traffic Safety. Scherf explained there are several factors when nominating an agency for the award.

“It just isn’t the number of citations that are written, although that is one factor,” Scherf said. “Also considered is their participation in group planning meetings for their quarterly or yearly enforcement mobilizations, timeliness in reporting their activity back to the Office of Traffic Safety and participation in community events.”

Isanti County Chief Deputy Chris Caulk said the Sheriff’s Office is pleased by the award.

“The Sheriff’s Department is part of Toward Zero Deaths, and we are extremely honored to receive this award,” Caulk said. “Some may say they don’t like tickets, and don’t deserve tickets, but we get calls about drivers racing up the roads, and driving all over the road. We have accidents where people get hurt because of inattentive driving, and we have to continue to be aggressive and

pro-active.”

Because of the honor, the Sheriff’s Office had its choices of awards. Caulk said the department selected to receive five scholarships (approximately $500 per person) for deputies to attend Pursuit Intervention Tactics at the St. Cloud Highway Safety Center.

“Our office had no idea we were nominated for the award, and a really special thanks goes to our deputies who are working these TZD enforcement campaigns,” Caulk said. “These deputies are taking time outside their normal hours and shifts to enforce traffic laws that need more attention. Traffic stops can turn deadly pretty quickly — and yes, we signed up to do this — but we appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

Scherf explained the TZD enforcement grant is a federally funded grant through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration given to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, specifically to the Office of Traffic Safety division (OTS) to law enforcement agencies across Minnesota to do extra traffic enforcement in areas of impaired driving,  speeding, distracted driving and seat belt-child seat use.

Scherf explained OTS has identified these four areas as the four primary causes of serious injuries and deaths in motor vehicle crashes in Minnesota. He said there are approximately 315 agencies in Minnesota participating in the TZD program.

Scherf explained third-quarter TZD enforcement campaigns included April 11-20 as distracted driving; May 19-June 1 as seat belt-child seats; and June 16-20 as speeding.

Specifically, in Isanti County, for the third-quarter TZD shifts, Scherf explained Isanti County worked a total of 48 hours, which included 120 vehicles stopped; 52 seat belt citations; 43 speed citations; 14 texting citations and 20 other miscellaneous citations (registration, over center line, etc).

“The statistics cited are only on TZD funded hours,” Scherf said. “The Office of Traffic Safety stresses that TZD is not to be used as an agency’s traffic enforcement division, but enhance what they already have in place. I am confident there were a lot more citations written on regular duty hours during this same time period.”

Scherf said Isanti County citizens should be proud of the Sheriff’s Office.

“I think the Isanti County community should know they have a sheriff and staff who are genuinely concerned for their safety,” Scherf said. “It shows by the time and effort they put toward the TZD program and their efforts to make it work.”

Scherf works with 16 counties, encompassing 65 law enforcement agencies.

“Isanti County has always been one of the agencies that I can count on to do a good job,” Scherf said. “They have always been consistent and easy to work with, and I know they are committed to the TZD goal. Both Chris Caulk and Lance Olson have stepped up when called on.”

Caulk said the Sheriff’s Office responds to approximately 20-25 crashes per week.

“The citizens of this county want us out there and want all of us to be driving safely,” Caulk said. “During our last enforcement campaign, we stopped a driver who admitted to watching a You Tube video on her cell phone while driving. There are a lot of distractions in our cars, and lot of this inattentive driving leads to accidents. When you are behind the wheel of a car, driving has to be your No. 1 priority.”

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