An interview with Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong

by Brian Bahouth

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong - image - Cathleen Allison.
Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong - image - Cathleen Allison.

Carson City – Kenny Furlong is seeking his 5th term as Carson City Sheriff and recently stopped by the Nevada Capital News studios and recorded the following interview with Brian Bahouth …

The Carson City Sheriff’s Office has a roughly $19 million budget and some 140 employees to include as many volunteers as paid staff.  Sheriff Furlong says he uses a strategic plan to guide his actions.

“That plan includes everything from our budget, how we spend our money, what we target in on for issues for training, how we employ folks.  I spend my time on that, which would include how crime is occurring in the town and what do we need to adjust to,” explained the Sheriff when asked about his primary duties. “So I spend time on that strategic plan, and that plan is basically to make this a more enjoyable community for our families, our businesses, and our visitors because our visitors are very important to us.”

A year or so ago, a protest in Carson City shut down Carson Street in front of the State Capitol.  Carson City Police diverted traffic and instead of arresting the protesters, the police gave them water and allowed them to complete their business and leave without filing a single charge.

“The fact of the matter is, we are a Capital city here in Carson, so we must anticipate a certain amount of protests.  People who want to make changes for real reasons, and we should be able to anticipate that and anticipate our responses,” Sheriff Furlong explained.  “It is certainly their right to close down an area in protest.  Normally those are done on the legislative complex.  It’s orchestrated very well, and in the case where they sat in the middle of the street and they wanted to be arrested.  We knew that because they were blocking traffic.  Well, I looked left and I looked right, and I said, ‘you’re not blocking traffic.  Those are my patrol cars left and right. I’m blocking traffic, and we’re not going to arrest anybody.’  We did offer them some get well stuff because, you know, it’s hot outside.  They might need some water.  When it turns nightfall, it might get cool.  Let us know what you need, but you have a civil right to protest something to our government, and I’m not going to interfere with that right.”

For Furlong there has been a change in police work in recent history.  Furlong says that what is oftentimes reported as a crime isn’t really a crime but a plea for help from a person in crisis.

“Grandpa’s throwing dishes at the wall and breaking everything in the house,” Furlong offered as an example.  “Maybe that’s what you see, but you need to investigate further.  Because it may have underlying tones that are not criminal, and what we are seeing across the country today, is a lot of people in crisis, and that crisis just needs an opportunity for assistance.”

The Sheriff said they’ve done a good job in Carson City in identifying people in need.

“Working together as a community to focus in on those that are in the most need.  What we say is, ’emergency rooms and jails are filling up with people who don’t belong in either place.  They need help,” Furlong said.

When asked what he sees as the number one threat to public safety in Carson City, sheriff Furlong was unequivocal.

“Mental health,” Furlong said emphatically.  “And there’s probably not a number two … mental health issues, whether they are long term or short term, cause more problems for communities than anything else.”

Domestic violence is oftentimes the result of mental illness combined with a number of societal stressors to include addiction, intoxication and financial troubles, and Sheriff Furlong said he and his officers work to solve problems before they become violent.

“When we look at Carson City, domestic violence is one of those main problems,” the Sheriff said.  “And what we have done in our strategic plan is categorize them in 3 different levels.  That’s your domestic batteries, your domestic assaults, and your domestic disturbances.  What we try to do, and we have staffing at the Sheriff’s Office, is try to attack the problem at the domestic dispute level.  In other words, let’s get resources on it before it turns violent.

“Turning the clock back from violence is virtually impossible.  Once one spouse hits another, it becomes that minimum level of acceptable behavior between the two, and it never gets reported, and we know this by fact.  The person arrested for domestic violence has been violating the victim for years and years and years … your dispute is loud enough for the neighbors to hear, and they called us.  That’s why we’re here and we’re here to talk about  how we can return some normalcy to your life,” Sheriff Furlong said.

For more for Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong, listen to the audio interview posted above …