TOPEKA, (KSNT)— As Kansas voters decide whether counties can choose to have a sheriff at all, there’s one county in the state that hasn’t had one for years.
Riley county is the only county in the state that doesn’t have a sheriff’s office, and has been operating that way for nearly five decades. Captain Josh Kyle, who’s been with the Riley County Police Department since 1991, said it’s perhaps one of the most unique law enforcement structures in the country.
“In most consolidation across the country, what you see is partial consolidation…We are completely consolidated from the top-down,” Kyle told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview on Friday. “The communications center, the records section, patrol, the jail… all of us are the Riley County Police Department.”
Instead of a sheriff’s office, Riley County has a consolidated law enforcement agency. The model includes an appointed director position. According to Riley County Police Department officials, the unique structure has helped streamline communication and interactions between different branches of the department.
Aaron Wintermote, a spokesperson for department, said with the county jail and dispatch under the same roof, day-to-day operations are more efficient. He said this also leaves room for less mistakes.
“It really provides efficiencies for our police officers and our corrections officers to work in the same building and to be able to work together,” Wintermote said. “Officers will come book the inmates in and, once again, can go upstairs to their computers… work on the same system.”
“Then, communications, which holds our dispatchers… We dispatch for law enforcement, Manhattan Fire Department, then Riley County EMS. It really provides a lot of efficiency, because everybody is being dispatched from one source,” Wintermote explained.
In the state’s other 104 counties, sheriffs are elected by the county’s residents. An amendment on the ballot this year will allow voters to decide whether they want to keep it that way.
A ‘yes’ vote means other counties would not be able to eliminate or merge their sheriff’s office with another law enforcement agency – like a local police department. If the amendment passes, it would also prevent local prosecutors from ousting a sheriff.
However, the amendment will not affect Riley County Police Department’s setup. Captain Kyle said it’s a system that’s been helping law enforcement best serve the needs of their community for years.
“People have talked in the past that Mahattan and Riley County… there’s something special about us,” Kyle explained. “It sounds a little funny, but there’s just this sense of collaboration and cooperation that you may not see in other jurisdictions.”