Your Letters: Unhappy with law and order in Wadena County
Since moving to Wadena County 7 years ago, I have heard a lot of complaints about law enforcement. As I've heard many of these same gripes in other places I've lived, I've taken the comments with a grain of salt. This year I had my own experience with law enforcement, the sheriff's department. My family and I became victims of a violent crime committed by our neighbor who is well known to the sheriff's department. While waiting for the deputy to arrive, we had other friends and family telling us ways to get vigilante justice. But trusting as I always have in our civil servants in uniform to increase our safety and carry out justice, I had confidence we would get resolution.
Deputy Tim Stroeing arrived within a couple of hours to hear our statements of fear for our safety, the randomness of the incident and my plea for more frequent patrol by our house. The deputy stated he was the only one patrolling the county so extra patrols by our home were unlikely. That made me realize how understaffed our sheriff's department is, and that as citizens of this county we need to support more funding for patrols. Further, he informed me that we had little legal recourse other than to file a civil suit for property crime. He suggested I contact the prosecuting attorney if unsatisfied.
We were underwhelmed by the deputy's concern for our safety, so at his suggestion we contacted the county prosecuting attorney the next morning to explore our options. Within a week we were notified of felony charges being pressed by the state.
This was relieving and concerning news at the same time as we did not know how the neighbor would react to this news. We've been vigilant since about locking our doors and being wary of our surroundings, who is driving by, etc. Well, we waited patiently for this case to go to trial. We received three subpoenas to be witnesses over four months as the court dates kept getting delayed. Finally the week had come to face our offender. Angela Sonsalla, assistant prosecuting attorney, reviewed details of the case with me a few days prior to trial as she prepared for court. She discovered that no follow up statements had been taken from us. The deputies remembered little about the case. Their reports may have been helpful except they contradicted each other, and the majority of the details were gathered from the defendant. The only report on our account of the crime was taken by the first responding deputy, Tim Stroeing, who had not audio recorded our statement, as is protocol, and had taken few written notes. I later learned when I met with the sheriff and deputies involved and was allowed to read reports that Deputy Stroeing's report contained false information, which then contradicted the other investigator's findings. Now let me reiterate, the sheriff's department is quite familiar with our neighbor and I certainly expected them to double-check his accounts of the details with his victims.
Cohesively, as a department should be, the sheriff and deputies defended their investigation and assured me they were prepared for trial. However, the inaccurate reports and misinformation offered by the defendant that was not confirmed with us made it look to me that Ms. Sonsalla made a good call in dropping the charges. The deputies were woefully unprepared to present facts.
Unfortunately, I don't have the confidence in our legal system I had before. I better understand the point from those who advocate vigilante justice. I will listen more intently and take more seriously the complaints from others about their experience with law enforcement. So, in this case a great deal of time and taxpayer money was spent on virtually nothing. What I've learned though is to be a an outspoken advocate for my own defense in such matters and to not rely as much on the judgement of professionals in law enforcement.