SWEETWATER COUNTY — Sweetwater County Sheriff Rich Haskell today announced his candidacy for reelection as Sheriff of Sweetwater County. A veteran of 36 years of law enforcement service with the Sheriff’s Office, he has served as Sheriff since first being elected in 2006 and assuming office in 2007.
Haskell, a Republican, said he set himself two goals when he took office seven years ago – to restore the agency’s morale and spirit, and to bring the Sheriff’s Office’s level of effectiveness up to the standards the people of the County deserve.
“We succeeded,” Haskell said. “We pulled together as a team, met the challenges that needed to be met, and we succeeded.” He went on to review the accomplishments and progress of the Sheriff’s Office during his two terms in office.
- Special emphasis on effective 24/7 countywide patrol. “Every road deputy patrols in a four-wheel-drive vehicle,” Haskell said. “Our deputies have to deal not only with all the situations that confront our city police officers, but with circumstances unique to out-in-the-county law enforcement as well. That requires special skills and resources, and our deputies have them.”
- Creation of the Inmate Community Service Program. The ICSP allows non-violent, pre-screened, misdemeanor-level volunteer inmates of the County Detention Center, working under the direct supervision of Sheriff’s Office detention officers, to perform cleanup and light maintenance projects for not-for-profit, governmental, and community service organizations. Of the many cleanup projections since its inception, in 2009 the ICSP worked with County Road & Bridge to remove nearly 47 tons of garbage from an illegal dumping area near Rock Springs.
- Ongoing support for the Sweetwater Bomb Squad, a highly specialized unit comprised of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office and the Rock Springs and Green River Police Departments.
- Establishment of a Sheriff’s Office Substation on Yellowstone Road, a modular unit that provides patrol deputies a small office much nearer the unincorporated area north of Rock Springs, thus reducing response time to calls in that area.
- Creation of a special Fugitive Apprehension Team tasked with tracking down and apprehending those for whom arrest warrants have been issued. Charges range from misdemeanor warrants issued by the Circuit Courts in Rock Springs and Green River and by other courts and jurisdictions to felony offenses including drug trafficking and conspiracy. To date, the team has made over 300 arrests.
- Hosting, since 2009, an annual Street Gang Training Seminar for law enforcement officers, featuring nationally recognized gang experts as instructors. Now in its sixth year, the Street Gang seminar has trained over 350 officers.
- Assigning a team of detectives to the Southwest Enforcement Team, a multi-agency drug task force that targets drug dealers and drug trafficking operations. Haskell said inter-agency cooperation is key to working drug cases. The Southwest Enforcement Team (or SWET) is comprised of special agents and investigators from the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, Uinta County Sheriff’s Office, Evanston Police Department, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, and the Green River Police Department.
One of the SWET unit’s drug sweeps last year is representative of the team’s effectiveness; an intensive two-year multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking investigation covering Sweetwater, Uinta, Sublette, and Fremont Counties culminated in the arrest of 24 people on drug charges in the Rock Springs, Green River, and Evanston areas. “Most of these cases have since reached disposition and these people are doing some very hard prison time,” Haskell said.
- A revitalized and reorganized Detective Division. Among the division’s responsibilities is local oversight of the nearly 100 registered sex offenders who live in Sweetwater County. Working both independently and in conjunction with the United States Marshals Service, county detectives monitor offender compliance and arrest offenders who are in violation.
“Investigations are yet another area where inter-agency cooperation is vital,” Haskell said, pointing to the Alvarado case as an example. On August 19, 2012, the body of 17-year-old Rigoberto Alvarado was found in a shallow grave north of Rock Springs. He had been brutally murdered. Working in close cooperation, in less than a month detectives from the Sheriff’s Office, Rock Springs Police Department, and Green River Police Department arrested and charged Brady Jacob Trevino, Jose Antonio Campos, and Bufford Greymountain in Alvarado’s murder. All three subsequently pleaded guilty to charges in the case and are serving prison sentences.
- Reorganizing and improving the efficiency of the Sweetwater County Detention Center, which has processed over 30,000 prisoner book-ins since 2007.
In 2013, Telmate, a state-of-the-art remote video visitation system, was installed at the Sweetwater County Detention Center. Telmate permits people to visit inmates via the Internet without leaving their homes, if they so choose. Telmate also handles the Detention Center’s inmate telephone system, all of which represents major savings and overall efficiency. “The system was installed and operates at virtually no expense to the county,” Haskell said. “We pay Telmate nothing; they derive their revenue from the inmates’ and visitors’ user fees.”
Working closely with local school officials, the Sweetwater County Detention Center now has classes available to incarcerated juveniles, with certified teachers providing instruction.
- A reconstituted D.A.R.E. anti-drug program for grade school children.
- Restoring close working relationships with city, state, and federal law enforcement agencies operating in Sweetwater County.
- Providing top-priority support for Sweetwater County Search & Rescue and the Sweetwater Dive Team.
- Seasonal boat patrol on Flaming Gorge. Deputies assigned to boat patrol complete special training in state boating laws and regulations, rescue, BUI (Boating While Under the Influence) enforcement, safety, lake patrol techniques, boat-to-boat transfers, boat handling, and communications. Deputies are work closely with Wyoming Game & Fish Department boat teams.
The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office has, since 2007, grown to an agency of 105 patrol deputies, bomb squad technicians, K9 drug detection teams, operations supervisors, detention officers, detectives, process servers, animal control officers, registered nurses, control room operators, detention maintenance personnel, detention center support personnel, and clerical staff with an annual budget of over $10 million. County Emergency Management, with its resources, staff, and responsibilities, is an integral component of the Sheriff’s Office.
A veteran of 27 years with the United States Marine Corps and Wyoming Army National Guard, Haskell is a member of the American Legion and Marine Corps League. He serves as the Wyoming and Montana representative to the National Sheriff’s Association’s Homeland Security and Special Operations Committees, and also serves on the Sweetwater County Ambulance Board, Joint Communications Center Board, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Board, and the Red Desert Roundup Rodeo Committee.
A staunch defender of the Second Amendment, Haskell underscores his belief in the rights of law-abiding gun owners in Sweetwater County through his ongoing support of the Sheriff’s Office Civilian Handgun Course, which provides handgun training and qualifies graduates’ training requirements in applying for concealed carry permits. In 2011, the Sheriff’s Office obtained a grant of $10,952.81 from the National Rifle Association, which was used to purchase a variety of reactive steel handgun and rimfire-caliber targets and target systems for use in law enforcement training and for the general, free-of-charge use by the general public at the county’s Shooting Sports Complex south of Rock Springs.
“A sheriff running for reelection is actually reapplying for his job,” Haskell said, “and today I’m reapplying for mine. Thanks to the professionalism and commitment of the men and women of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, we have not only maintained but continue improving the level of law enforcement service the people of Sweetwater County are entitled to. It would be my privilege to continue serving them as Sheriff.”