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3 Beltrami County Sheriff candidates prepare for primaries

Current Sheriff Ernie Beitel announced in February that he would not be seeking reelection in 2022.

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The Beltrami County Sheriff Office is located at 613 Minnesota Ave. NW in Bemidji.
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BEMIDJI – With the primary election for the office of Beltrami County Sheriff coming up on Tuesday, Aug. 9, three candidates hope to become the two who will advance to the general election taking place Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Current Sheriff Ernie Beitel announced in February that he would not be seeking reelection in 2022.

Jason Riggs

With more than 21 years of law enforcement experience, Jason Riggs currently acts as a captain with the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office where he has worked for the past 18 years. He has also served as the commander of the Headwaters SWAT team since 2012.

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Jason Riggs

Detailing his activities on the campaign trail — complete with community group meetings, door knocking, attending events and posting signs — Riggs looks forward to forging stronger trust between law enforcement and community if elected as sheriff.

“Law enforcement needs to take back the community by becoming a part of it again,” Riggs said. “With the backlash from the George Floyd incident among other incidents in the country, we need to be seen as public servants again and go back to our traditional roots as peace officers.”

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Regarding a Jail Needs and Feasibility Study for the Beltrami County Jail — results for which will be provided to the Board of Commissioners in August — Riggs anticipates the building of a new jail and offering better services for inmates.

“The future population of the jail looks fairly staggering. The current footprint and internals of the jail would no longer satisfy its growth,” Riggs said. “I anticipate the need for a new facility operated with a much lower staff-to-inmate ratio, providing better services medically and better services mental health-wise.”

With public safety as his main priority, Riggs highlighted his readiness to serve Beltrami County in a new capacity.

“I’ve been feeling a lot of good support in the community,” Riggs added. “I look forward to talking with people about public safety, and the future of rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”

Jarrett Walton

While Chief Deputy Jarrett Walton doesn’t consider himself a politician, he hopes his 25 years of law enforcement experience, 20 of which have been with the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, will land him the sheriff’s position once November comes around.

“I’ve been the chief deputy the last three years, during which we’ve implemented things that have been well-received,” Walton said.

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Beltrami County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jarrett Walton

Emphasizing a holistic approach when it comes to the well-being of prison inmates, Walton highlighted the need for more support for those afflicted by mental health and substance abuse issues, though still holding them accountable for their actions.

“We have to actively hold people accountable and provide them these services. They’re not bad people. They make bad decisions or because of health or substance abuse issues,” Walton said. “Drugs drive a lot of criminal activity. We’re never going to stop the problem, but can deter people or reduce the demand.

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“Chemical dependency causes lots of collateral damage to families. If we can affect even 15 to 20% (of addicts) and make their personal lives better by tackling underlying issues, it’s a win for everyone in the process.”

Having supervised all divisions of the sheriff’s office, Walton sees transparency as the link between law enforcement and the community, and the key for forging trust.

“Being out there and partnering with the community, it’s to make the community healthier and safer,” Walton left off. “We follow a very deliberate process to make sure we make good, feasible decisions.”

Bidal Duran

Hubbard County narcotics investigator Bidal Duran believes his post-secondary pursuits and “outside-in” point of view will give him a leg up once residents cast their votes for the next sheriff.

Currently pursuing his doctorate in public management and criminal justice leadership, Duran is also a former Bemidji police officer and has been in law enforcement since 2013.

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Bidal Duran family photo
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Regarding the jail feasibility study, he said, “addressing the issue from the inside out hasn’t been working out. We have to talk with other individuals to see how (the jail) can adjust to our community instead of throwing another big jail in here.

“There are lots of moving parts and we have to look at the big picture,” Duran continued. “Having the ability to see our budget and going over the avenues to financially afford that, it’s not really an easy fix.”

Duran also noted difficulties with properly staffing the jail in turn affecting public safety when there’s a limit to the number of arrests that can be made.

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Willing to face challenges surrounding drug addiction, racial tensions and transparency between law enforcement and the community, Duran emphasized his commitment to serving all people of Beltrami County.

“You can’t separate yourself from people if you’re a man for the people,” Duran left off. “Having first-hand knowledge of the community because of my current position, I understand the true needs of people because I work with (them) every day.”

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSELECTION 2022BELTRAMI COUNTY JAILBELTRAMI COUNTY
Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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