The duty of the County Sheriff has basically stayed the same over the years.
The Sheriff’s position is an elected position and has remained that was since the county was organized. In past few years movements have been made for appointment of the position, but they have not gone anywhere in the legislature as public opinion has always been strong that the Sheriff remain an elected position.
The Sheriff’s duties have always included, civil process duties, to include paper service, conducting sales, accepting bonds, collection of debts. The Sheriff is responsible for operating the County Jail, keeping prisoners behind bars, and providing them food, clothing and medical care. The Sheriff is also responsible for all inmate transport and Court security.
Years ago every city and village had a police officer for regular patrol and responses to emergencies. Today only the Dawson-Boyd Police Department exist separate from the Sheriff's Office and the City of Madison contracts with the Sheriff's Office.
In 1891, the first Lac qui Parle County Jail was built for $6,600. It was a two-story brick building with two bedrooms, dining room, living room, kitchen and bath on the first floor. Jail was on the second floor with three rooms, one cell in each room, and one cell for two prisoners, one cell for three prisoners, one cell for one prisoner, and all lavatories being located outside of each cell block. There was a lavatory in each room and one bathtub for all. County Jails are and have been inspected by state inspectors. As back as 1898 the county jail was not up to standards by the state. Issues of the jail not being fireproof only one exit for the prisoners. The jail was located on the 2nd floor; the main floor was the sheriff’s residence. The sheriff’s residence did not have enough sleeping rooms for his family, and the sheriff’s family used the women’s cell for sleeping which the state inspector did not approve of.
Again in May 1963, the State Jail Consultant inspected the jail and met with the county board advising them that something had to be done. At a special election on February 25th, 1964, a bond to build a new jail was voted on. Then in April 1964, the old jail was torn down.The contract was awarded to Abner Nelson of Montevideo, and on July 31, 1964 they started building. It was to be completed on January 31, 1965, but was finished on February 28th, 1965. The cost of the 1963 jail being $98,466 and the attached residence had a cost of $15,221.
Up until 1983, the Sheriff's wife provided cooking, cleaning and laundry for the prisoners and in many cases the entire Sheriff’s family would be involved in the jail operation.
In 1983, the county jail was again found to be below standards and was required to make changes in order to remain open.
The Sheriff’s residence was converted into administrative office space, giving space to the jail and allowing secure visitation and booking rooms. A recreation room and small library were also added.
Up until about the early 1960’s the only communication to the Sheriff was telephone. With the development of 2-way radios, the Sheriff and his family were responsible for 7 radio-controlled patrol cars in the 1960’s.
In 1965, Ann Marie West was hired as the County's first radio operator. Ms. West worked 5 nights a week, 7pm-2am for $5.00 a night. Ms. West worked as a radio operator/jailer until 1993.
Today’s 911 system is computerized, with all 911 calls answered by the Lac qui Parle Sheriff’s Office.