The two Republican candidates for McLean County Sheriff emphasized different parts of law enforcement in addressing drug problems in central Illinois during a debate in Bloomington. Former Sheriff's Lieutenant Jeff Ellston told a TEA Party audience that he wants to put more paperwork on the Sheriff so Sergeants and Lieutenants can increase patrols.
Ellston's opponent says the Sheriff's Department is a small organization and there simply is not enough manpower or time to do what Ellston wants. Current Lieutenant Jon Sandage has a different answer to boosting drug enforcement.
According to Sandage, since the start of 2010 there have been 89 overdose deaths in McLean County. That represents a fairly constant annual rate of drug deaths and many of those overdoses happen in urban areas and not in the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's department.
The two also exchanged snarky remarks during the forum. Ellston accused Sandage of a lack of vision. Sandage told Ellston some of his experience was outdated since Ellston left for a job with a law enforcement software company several years ago. Ellston says there are places to cut the budget.
It's not that simple according to Sandage...
Sandage says the department has reduced almost every cost possible without cutting services. Sandage suggests doing a fee study for the first time in five years with an eye toward raising revenue from process serving and other services. Both agree turnover in the department is an issue because the Sheriff's department pays less than surrounding departments.
Sandage and Ellston also agree McLean County needs a new criminal justice information system. The current software is nearly 20 years old and is no longer state of the art. Ellston says the way forward is clear with systems already in use in other states and by some federal law enforcement agencies.
But, Sandage says the issue is not one on which the Sheriff can go it alone.
Sandage and Ellston are running in the March primary in hopes of replacing the retiring Sheriff Mike Emery.
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