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Narcotics detective enters crowded Grand Forks County sheriff's race

A Grand Forks Police detective became the latest to join a crowded field campaigning to become the county's top cop Thursday.

Detective Darin Johnson, a 14-year veteran of the Grand Forks Police Department, has announced his candidacy for Grand Forks County Sheriff in 2018.

Sheriff Bob Rost has said he will not seek another term as sheriff and instead intends to retire from law enforcement and run for a spot on the Grand Forks County Commission in 2018.

Johnson said he will bring a "common sense" management style to the Sheriff's Office that he believes will allow deputies and staff to "excel at their assignments."

Currently assigned to the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force, Johnson said issues with heroin and other opioid drugs in the area are important to him. He said he believes the county needs to continue fighting the war on drugs and suggested people would benefit from some form of incarcerated drug treatment.

"We can't let up," Johnson said. "We actually need to work on maybe some confinement along with treatment, because a lot of people I run into on my daily business have been to treatment many times."

Johnson said opioids should be tackled as a criminal and public health issue.

"I think the way we're approaching it right now is effective, we are making ground," he said.

But he recognizes more needs to be done on the addiction treatment side.

Johnson is from Grand Forks and obtained a criminal justice degree from UND. He said he was inspired to run by conversations with friends and family over the last two years.

"This is my community, this is where I grew up," he said.

Johnson, 49, joined the Grand Forks Police Department in 2004 after working as a journeyman and master electrician. He said he served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1988 through 1994.

He worked as a Grand Forks patrol officer for 10 years, including eight years as a K-9 handler. He was part of the regional SWAT team for five years. Johnson became a detective in 2014, when he was assigned to the regional narcotics task force, which includes officers from several local jurisdictions, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations and federal agencies.

"I know I can make it a better department, which in turn is going to make it more productive," Johnson said.

In the race for sheriff, Johnson joins Grand Forks Police Deputy Chief Jim Remer, Grand Forks Sheriff's deputies Lt. B.J. Maxson and Sgt. Andy Schneider, former Grand Forks Deputy Mike Lee and UND Police Sgt. Danny Weigel, who also serves as a member of the Grand Forks City Council.

Candidates cannot officially register with the auditor's office until Jan. 2. The deadline to file as a candidate via petition or party endorsement is April 9. A primary election will be held June 18 before the official election Nov. 6.