submitted by Branden Bestgen, county sheriff candidate
Sturgis City Councilman, and former Assistant Chief of Police Branden Bestgen has announced he will be a Republican candidate for Meade County Sheriff in the June 3, 2014 primary election.
“I will bring strong leadership with a fresh perspective to the Meade County Sheriff’s Office. I believe in community-oriented policing and I will work emphatically towards building county-wide relationships for a stronger, safer Meade County,” said Bestgen.
Bestgen will bring several changes to the Sheriff’s Office, while focusing on four distinct areas; building relationships through community-oriented policing, strengthening collaboration with other agencies, embracing technology, and employee development.
The most important change that Bestgen said he will bring to the Office of Sheriff is a philosophical shift in the way law enforcement is conducted; moving to a proactive agency that purposefully and deliberately builds positive relationships with the citizens of Meade County.
Bestgen believes that relationships are what help make communities strong. Whether you’re in the ranching community of Enning, or the incorporated community of Piedmont, the intangible sense of “belonging” to a community can have a profound impact on your quality of life. Law enforcement officers should never be viewed by the community as a group of uniformed strangers, but as collaborative community-building partners. Under Bestgen’s leadership, the Sheriff’s Office will take a more active role in Meade County communities and help alleviate the “us vs. them” perception.
“The law enforcement profession gives you access to people’s lives during times when the right positive influence can have a life-long impact. There is no other profession like it. You’re there at critically important times, and the way an officer deals with the issue at hand can have a profound impact on someone’s life; good or bad. I truly want to impact people’s lives in a positive way, and I will lead the Sheriff’s Office in that manner,” stated Bestgen.
To help build county-wide relationships, Bestgen will create a citizen volunteer program within the Sheriff’s Office. Bestgen stated, “When I was with the police department, I created VIPS, the Volunteers in Public Safety program; a citizen volunteer organization that helped bridge the gap between law enforcement and the general public. Before the VIPS program, we would hear feedback about how police officers didn’t do anything; other than drive around, eat donuts, and harass people. After the volunteers were actively involved with the police department, they began to see what officers really did each day, and they were able to speak first-hand of their experiences. The volunteers were also able to let us know what we needed to change. When you’re in law enforcement, it’s sometimes hard to evaluate what the public really thinks. Volunteers give us that important perspective!”
As Sheriff, Bestgen will actively build a community-oriented policing volunteer program. The VIPS will become an integral part of the Sheriff’s Office and active within the county. They will be utilized for a variety of tasks, ranging from prisoner transports, to blocking streets for parades, to blocking roads during fires; all at no cost to the taxpayers. The jobs and opportunities available will be based on, and limited only by the talents and ideas of the volunteers. According to Bestgen, “Volunteer groups are a win-win-win for everyone involved. The volunteers win because they get to pour their time and talents into something they enjoy; the agency wins because services are being performed at no cost to the taxpayers; and the public wins because the volunteers are frequently adding services that normally wouldn’t be performed.”
Bestgen believes that technology is a tremendous tool that can be used to increase public safety. He also believes that communication and transparency are essential components in building trust with the community. Under Branden’s leadership, the Sheriff’s Office will identify and utilize tools to share relevant information on crime, accidents, and law enforcement operations with the public. Bestgen stated, “I’ve always been on the cutting edge of technology; especially when it comes to doing things more efficiently. As Sheriff, I will implement any type of proven technology that will improve the workflow of employees. I will also improve the communication gap that currently exists between the Sheriff’s Office and the general public by utilizing social media. Social media is part of everyday life, and I will use it to keep our citizens informed.”
Bestgen will also focus on employee development. He is committed to helping employees develop the skills needed to do their job to the best of their ability. According to Bestgen, “God has given each and every person distinct traits, talents, and desires; for a purpose. I will create a leadership atmosphere that will encourage personal growth, and allow employees to grow to their maximum potential in the area that they are passionate about.” Bestgen will utilize his grant-writing skills to bring cutting-edge training to the agency.
Bestgen has the experience, management skills, and leadership abilities to lead and manage the Sheriff’s Office. He has been in law enforcement for 16 years, starting in 1997 as a Reserve Police Officer. He was a School Resource Officer, a Patrolman, and spent six years as the Assistant Chief of Police. Bestgen is a successful grant-writer, obtaining nearly $2 million in grants and equipment for the department. For the last three years, Bestgen has been a Reserve Special Agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. In addition to law enforcement, Bestgen has a diverse business background and has been involved in the acquisition, development, and construction of millions of dollars of real estate and business ventures.
If elected Sheriff, Bestgen said he will not have to give up his city council seat.
Branden is a lifelong resident of Meade County and resides in Sturgis with his wife Laura, of 18 years. Together they have five children: Kadin, Brooklyn, Tyana, Zachary, and Grace, ranging from 8-17 years old.