Special crimes call for special measures

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Hilary Henningsen was approved Tuesday by the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors to serve as the county's special investigator. The newly-created position is intended to take on some of the investigative legwork local patrol officers cannot fit into their schedules. Henningsen may start as early as Thursday.
Photo by Seth Boyes

Henningsen named county special investigator

The Dickinson County Attorney and Sheriff can check at least one item of their wish list for the new year.

The two offices asked for county approval in the creation of a special investigator in November and the County Board of Supervisors granted that request this week. The board approved the hiring of Hilary Henningsen for the position Tuesday morning. Henningsen will be a dedicated investigator for the county, focusing on felony cases. County Attorney Jon Martin said during the initial request patrol officers have more trouble fitting such investigations into their schedules.

Assistant County Attorney Travis Johnson described Henningsen's credentials as impeccable.

"We're pretty surprised to have someone with this much experience that is just spot on for what we're looking for," Johnson said. "We called her references and the only bad thing they had to say was the fact that she no longer works for them. I don't think you can get a more glowing recommendation than that."

Henningsen moved to Milford approximately three years ago, after marrying her husband Daniel. She had previously lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and worked for the Omaha Police Department for nearly 11 years.

"I did uniformed patrol for about the first three years and was then promoted to detective," Henningsen said. "I worked in property crimes and then felony crimes and then was transferred to the child victim sexual assault unit."

Henningsen said she also worked in a narcotics unit and is trained in administering polygraphs.

"I've pretty much seen as much as you can imagine," she said.

She said she has been missing her time in law enforcement since the move and is excited to back into it.

Henningsen will be deputized by Dickinson County Sheriff Greg Baloun, carry a badge, be issued a sidearm, have authority to arrest and be paid as a sheriff's deputy but will work out of the county attorney's office and report to Martin.

"It's going to be very helpful, not only to our office but to a lot of the police departments here as well as the sheriff's office," Johnson said.

Johnson said the county has many felony cases which require further investigation, often times after lab results are returned or witness testimony is gathered. He said some cases require investigations to be rapid, especially just prior to a trial date. Johnson said the county attorney's office has relied on local patrol officers in the past, but personnel may not be available or may have worked an overnight patrol shift.

"That's a lot to ask of the officers," Johnson said. "So having an in-house investigator, we'll be able to send her out to talk to people leading up to a trial."

Furthermore, as board chairman Bill Leupold pointed out, witnesses during the county's busy tourist season may need to be tracked down outside the county, which is a difficult task for local law enforcement. Johnson said such duties will generally fall to Henningsen.

The board approved Henningsen's hiring unanimously at a salary of approximately $53,000. During previous meetings, the possibility of splitting the cost of the special investigator between the county attorney's office and the sheriff's office was discussed.

Johnson indicated Henningsen could begin work as soon as Thursday, noting a number of cases would benefit from the new hire.

County approves comm tower in Milford



The county is taking steps to strengthen radio communications for emergency personnel. Dickinson County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Ehret received approval to construct a communications tower near the county's new maintenance shed on 220th Street, east of Milford. Ehret said firemen, emergency medical services and law enforcement had been having communications problems in the area, especially inside buildings.

"It's a good spot," Ehret said. "It will cover Milford well."

Ehret said utility companies preferred to keep local water towers free of communications antennae and he prefers to keep antennae off grain elevators, since the motors may cause interference. Ehret added the proximity to the maintenance shed will allow the county to house communications equipment in an indoor area where backup power is available.

The tower itself will be 130 feet tall, according to Ehret, and the communications antennae will bring the height close the its 150-foot limit. Due to its nature and height, the project will need to apply for a variance from the county board of adjustment. Ehret said the issue may be discussed as soon as next month.

Harkening back to an earlier county decision to share tower space with communications company IGL Teleconnect, Supervisor Paul Johnson asked whether the group should consider stipulating the tower be for government use only. Johnson opposed the county's November decision to grant tower space in exchange for additional coverage in Lake Park.

Supervisor Mardi Allen said it such a stipulation would likely be the decision of the county's 911 board. Assistant County Attorney Lonnie Saunders agreed.

Ultimately, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to approve the construction of the tower. Ehret said the county hopes to potentially expand communications in Terril during the 2019 fiscal year.

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