Dennis Conard, Sheriff of Scott County, is retiring after a 43-year career in law enforcement. Conard has spent his entire law enforcement career serving the communities of Scott County, Iowa, and for the last 15 years has served as Sheriff.
Conard says it wasn’t originally his intention to pursue a policing career, but as a student at St. Ambrose University in the early 1970s, he was chosen to receive an all-inclusive tuition grant to pursue a law enforcement degree, and so he did.
He began his career early on as a reserve sheriff’s deputy and then as a patrol deputy, where he stayed for about 15 years. He later moved into the investigations division before finally making the leap to run for sheriff in 2001, where he has remained ever since.
Conard has witnessed many changes to the practice of law enforcement along the way, but his biggest concern, both for the public and for law enforcement, is the challenge that mental illness presents to the criminal justice system. The major problem, according to Conard, is that mental health issues aren’t being properly addressed out in the community. “Unfortunately, as a place of last resort for our local law enforcement agencies and sometimes the hospitals, these individuals end up in jail,” he says. In fact, he estimates that approximately 60% of inmates suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or a combination of both.
Conard says that another issue law enforcement officials are dealing with is the recent string of officer-involved shootings. The result, of course, is a public that is now somewhat leery and untrusting of law enforcement in general. Locally, in Scott County, he says that their “relationships in the rural areas are very good” and that his department works hard to maintain that.
Overall, he feels good about the future of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department and believes that he is “leaving it in good shape and in good hands.”