PUTNAM COUNTY - Current Putnam County Sheriff, Jim Beutler is surrounded by piles of paper as he sits at his desk. The piles represent the things that he is hoping to pass on to the incoming sheriff who is set to begin his post on Jan. 5, 2013.
Beutler has lead the safety efforts of Putnam County for the past 12 years as its sheriff. Prior to that he served as a deputy officer for the county for 24 years and although he does not know what he will be doing after Jan. 5, it is known that he has left some pretty big shoes to fill.
Over the past 12 years Sheriff Beutler implemented many programs within Putnam County. Programs such as the Neighborhood Watch, Amber Alert, drug take backs, Code Red, saving minutes and he has brought a lot of new technology to the sheriff's department. Beutler implemented a website and the use of Facebook and Twitter.
Beutler spoke of one element of his website that has improved the amount of crime tips he receives at the office. The department has always used a tip line, that allowed people to call into and leave an anonymous tip pertaining to crime happening in the area. Beutler noted that prior to placing a link on the website, the office rarely received any activity on the line.
"About a year ago, we decided to put a link for the tip line on our website. Since then, we have all kinds of anonymous tips that people send in. People can do it anonymously by emailing it in. So, it has become more effective," said Beutler.
Other technology Beutler implemented for the advanced safety of the residents of the county include laptops in the patrol cars. Beutler has worked with the schools throughout the county to improve the security systems. He was reminded of the first school to implement a networked security system.
"Pandora-Gilboa was the first one to do that, where we could tap into their security system," said Beutler. He explained that if there is an incident in the schools, the sheriff's department can tap into the school's video monitoring system and see where a potential perpetrator is within the building. Beutler said that most schools in Putnam County implement this system.
Beutler also spoke about how he implemented lock down drills with the schools. He said that along with his staff, he designed a "prototype protocol" that could be modified specifically for each school's needs. The training is now called ALICE training and must be practiced once per year with each school. ALICE trains school staff on what to do if a dangerous person enters the school. It teaches staff how to forcefully take down a predator.
A separate major accomplishment Beutler changed was the department's communication systems. Beutler said that the previous radios made it difficult to communicate with someone across the county; the new system now allows officers to communicate across the nation. Beutler said that he spearheaded an effort to partner with nine counties throughout Ohio. Seven counties went along with the new system and by doing that, the state picked up with tab for most of the cost of the radios through grant monies.
"We were also able to update most of the fire departments' radio systems with additional grant monies," he said.
Beutler was also involved with the building of the new jail facility located on Industrial Drive in Ottawa. He said that the 76 bed facility is also used to house inmates from Paulding County and a few other counties. According to Beutler, that service alone generates $250,000 to $300,000 in annual revenue for the jail.
Beutler notes that a large objective of his was to look for ways to save the county money in all departments of the county government. Beutler noted how his implementation of a new phone system at the sheriff's office was a model for a new system at the courthouse. The new system actually costs less than the previous one. Along those lines, Beutler said he generated over $1.6 million in grant monies for the county with over $500,000 of the grant money going towards equipment funding with the rest of the monies to assist in wages.
Some of the things Beutler was hoping to implement included, citizen oriented policing strategies, more specifically known as Project Life Saver, Triad and Citizen's Academies. Project Life Saver is a program targeting those with Alzheimer's and autistic children. According to Beutler, the program will allow for a monitoring system to track those afflicted with these diseases. Beutler said the funding has been secured for the program as it simply needs the instruction portion completed.
Beutler also hoped to start Triad, a program designed to engaged local senior citizens and train them to assist in recognizing crime and what to do when it happens. Beutler said the nationwide program is similar to a neighborhood watch program where citizens would hold monthly meetings. He noted that Hancock County currently utilizes this program.
Another program Beutler was working on was Citizen's Academies. He explained that these programs engage residents and trains them on law enforcement functions and what residents can do for their communities. Beutler said both Allen and Hancock Counties utilize these programs.
Beutler hopes the work he put into these programs will continue and be implemented. With only a month left in office, Beutler said he does not have enough time to fully implement the programs.
One final act he hopes to complete is locating a missing person from Vaughnsville. Beutler said Chase Stephens went missing in May and he continues to work to locate him and hopes to have him found by the time he leaves office.
After Jan. 5, Beutler is unsure of what he will be doing. He simply said he will "wait for the phone to ring." He said he has worked hard to diversify himself in the public safety sector and continues to be certified as a scuba diver, fire fighter and in law enforcement. Beutler was also a certified EMT prior to becoming the sheriff. He also continues to maintain his private construction business.
"I loved my job and am proud of all the opportunities it has afforded me. I have no regrets," said Beutler.