Richland County Sheriff Darrell Berglin has announced that he will be retiring at the end of his current term of office in January of 2015. The long time veteran of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department was first appointed sheriff by Wisconsin Governor, Tommy G. Thompson in February of 1996 to complete the term of Sheriff Fred Schram who had died in office on January first of that year. Since his appointment, Darrell Berglin has been elected to three two year terms of office and three four year terms as sheriff. At the end of his current term, Berglin will have served 19 consecutive years, the longest consecutive term as sheriff in Richland County history.
Berglin, who graduated from UW-Platteville in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice, began his law enforcement career in Dodgeville as a police patrol officer before coming to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in April of 1976. He rose through the ranks of the department serving first as a jailer/dispatcher in the old jail before being promoted in 1978 to the position of road patrol deputy by Sheriff Charles Cupp. He served the citizens of Richland County as a road patrol deputy until 1989 when he was promoted to the newly created management/command position of Sheriff’s Lieutenant by Sheriff Schram.
Berglin said that in looking back at his career, the 1989 promotion to Lieutenant changed his career. “At that point in my career becoming a Lieutenant and experiencing that for six years was so important to my future and taking the next step to being a sheriff,” he said.
“It really made a positive impact on my career. I began to work with personnel issues, I gained management experience supervising criminal investigations and most important I began to learn how to problem solve within the law enforcement community as well as working with other levels of government. I got involved in the jail inmate issues more and more and then the jail overcrowding issues we had at the time. During these six years I got involved in the budgeting process-that experience also proved very beneficial when I became sheriff.”
Berglin said that when he first took office in 1996 his initial goal was to continue to lead the department with a strong management team approach and when new hiring opportunities came along ensure that he was hiring new employees who were smart and dedicated to becoming a professional law enforcement career-not someone who was looking to work 8 hours and go home. He feels he has accomplished both these goals.
“I am very fortunate that the management team I put into place at the beginning is still with me today. That continuity and trust we have developed over the years has been a great asset to my career as sheriff and to the county in general,” Berglin said.
“Greater patrol visibility by the public, more focused training opportunities for all ranks in the department and improved use of computers by our law enforcement personnel were also high priorities at the beginning of my tenure,” Berglin added. “Today the computer technology we use is so much more advanced and such an important part of our normal day-to-day operations compared to what it was in 1996 when I became sheriff.
“Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time and effort to ensure that all personnel learned how to use our computers and that they had access to the department records they needed in order to perform their duties. We have also steadily moved toward merging all our different data base records. We have linked the records generated by the administrative office staff, the jail, the dispatch center and the road patrol deputies into one computer program that allows access to the computer records that are needed to be successful.”
The sheriff said that electronic jail bookings with digital photos and the computerized jail records of cell checks, medications given and all other aspects of inmate discipline and care are part of the normal operations in today’s jail setting. He notes that this is a far cry from the days of multiple handwritten ledgers that were common when he was a jailer/dispatcher.
“The current system is so much more efficient. We added numerous computer work stations throughout the administrative offices, the jail, the road patrol squad rooms and the evidence rooms. We linked them together and keep upgrading our software to ensure a more efficient record keeping and information sharing network.
“Over the years we have transitioned from the basic 911 dispatching service to the current enhanced 911 system. We were able to add emergency medical dispatching as a service a few years ago. All this took hard work by my talented staff. We were able to get grants and create new policies and procedures to take into account all the changes in law enforcement as well as changing computer technologies.”
“During my entire tenure as sheriff, jail overcrowding has been an ongoing and re-occurring issue to solve,” Berglin stated. “To counter increased overcrowding we added an electronic monitoring (bracelet) program and remodeled an unfinished cell block in the original jail to hold more of our own inmates here in the county to save the money and shipping expenses of housing them out of county.”
Berglin cited other improvements during his tenure which included implementing a “book and release” system to speed up the bonding process in order to keep the jail population down as well as improved inmate medical care.
“We were able to switch out a room adjacent to the jail and reconfigure the jail to provide an examination room to provide the proper medical services to the inmate. This meant the jail nurse or jail doctor did not have to medially treat the inmates in the hallway, booking room or lawyer visiting room. Additional smaller changes in the jail were implemented over the years not only as cost saving measures, but in an effort to extend the life of the current jail facility. Jail space has always been a premium!”
When the county board reassigned some office space in the government building complex Sheriff Berglin added that his department was able to get some additional space that was re-modeled into a basement road patrol squad room and new and improved evidence rooms.
“Back in 2009, thanks to the full county board and the various committees seeing our dire need for more space, we really improved our ability to be successful,” Berglin said. “With their blessing we were able to remodel an old conference room and the abandoned ambulance office to create a nice efficient basement squad room area with multiple computer work stations for the road patrol officers. In addition, that 2009 project also enabled us to remodel an old basement storage room and make it into a nice clean and bright evidence packaging and processing room with new evidence lockers and temporary evidence storage space. I was really thankful for that project-we really needed it.”
Another project that Sheriff Berglin says he will always cherish is implementing Richland County’s first K-9 officer. The sheriff said that when he first proposed the project in 2006 there were a lot of doubters due to the fact that no county money was available to initiate the project. Berglin said that with the help of many local citizens, civic organizations and the local business community the project moved forward and in November of 2008 Richland County had Titan, the first Richland County K-9 Deputy on duty. The sheriff said that Titan has proven his worth many times over the years to be a valuable and important addition to the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff Berglin said that as he prepares for retirement in early January of 2015, he has a few minor goals remaining however for the most part he feels he has achieved most if not all the goals that were important to him in 1996. Goals that he says may be far different for a sheriff today.
“The “Office of Sheriff” is a lot different today than it was when I first started. In addition to my age of course, I knew that it was time to retire when I began to realize how much a sheriff’s job and law enforcement today is linked to computers.” Berglin said. “It has become so important and it really impacts our daily operations so much. Back in the 1970, 1980’s and even the 1990’s a typical law enforcement officer would let a specialized computer person do all that stuff-not today. If you are not proficient and fully understand it and use it to your advantage as a sheriff-you will never achieve all you can be. While I can use a computer for my own reasons, I can also see that it’s time to move over and let a more qualified computer oriented person move our department forward.”
“I am proud of our current sheriff’s department. They are a dedicated work force that has experienced success due to their hard work and commitment to their chosen profession. They are better trained, better equipped and a lot more intelligent in so many ways than when I first started in the 1970’s-they have to be, to be successful. In addition and also very important to me personally is, that they are a much more caring and sensitive group of people compared to when I started here back in 1976. I am going to miss working with such a great group of caring professionals.
“Looking at my career it hasn’t always been easy. It was often quite challenging-but at all time it was personally rewarding! From time to time my chief deputy reminds me that we must be successful despite our limitations. As I approach the end of my career I am proud to say that we as a group have dealt with our limitations and I believe we have been very successful.
“God has blessed me with a “story book” career. I owe a lot to my wife Jan for her love and support during all these years! I graciously thank all my family and the deputies and their family members for all their support over the many years. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by a gifted and talented management team, a dedicated jail and road patrol staff, and the needed support of the citizens of Richland County. With all this support I was able to carry out my duties. It is also true that because of all these people and their support-that I can consider my career a successful one!”