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Friday, 17 March 2017 13:12

Editor's blog: Profile of Walworth County Sheriff Kurt Picknell

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It's a little over halfway through Kurt Picknell's first term as Walworth County's sheriff, and he appears to have settled comfortably into the job.

But things change quickly in law enforcement, even in largely rural Walworth County.

So, we thought this would be a good time to profile the sheriff and ask him about the changes he's seen even over his relatively short term in office, as well as what he does in his free time to keep him balanced.

For this week's Walworth County Sunday cover story, Picknell told staff writer Todd Mishler, through answers to emailed questions, that he continually tries to achieve a re-balancing of quality time from the professional and personal perspectives.

"But this is easier said than done," Picknell said.

Picknell talks about several stressful situations, including high-profile incidents like the aftermath of shootings involving deputies on duty.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice database and news reports, there have been eight officer-involved shootings in Walworth County since 2010, seven involving sheriff’s deputies such as the one in the town of Geneva in early February.

Picknell was guarded in his comments, telling Mishler that "The threat to law enforcement is real," Picknell said. "They can happen at anytime and anyplace."

In February, Walworth County agreed to a $1.1 million settlement with the family of John Brown, the 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Walworth County Sheriff's deputy in 2012 after his mother called police because she was concerned about Brown's mental health.

In the settlement, the county and deputy involved denied any misconduct. Phil Koss, now a Walworth County Circuit Court judge, was the district attorney at the time and ruled in an investigation afterward that the deputy's actions were justified as self-defense.

But each of those seven cases have widely different circumstances, making it hard to draw any generalities.

Despite that, Mishler reports, Picknell is exploring the use of body and squad car cameras to provide additional evidence in investigations, as well as providing the opportunity for additional transparency.

"We will be piloting a body worn camera and squad car camera system this year," Picknell said. "We are evaluating the operational effectiveness and what the out-year cost implications would be, namely digital storage."

Picknell, a lifelong Walworth County resident and 1982 Delavan-Darien High School, remains energized about his department and is looking forward to what lies ahead.

His current four-year term runs through November 2018.


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