High School, , Plentywood High School
Other, School of Police Staff and Command, Northwestern University
Other, , Montana State University
Other, , Chicago Police Academy
Former Police Commander; Part-time Court Security Officer, City of Des Plaines; Lake County, Illinois
On The Record
Why are you running for county sheriff?
As I said when I first announced my candidacy more than two years ago, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) desperately needs to break from its recent practices and forge a new identity based firmly upon the principles of accountability; improved community relations; and a new emphasis on tapping volunteer enthusiasm. I am even more convinced now than I was then that these issues are critical. I also said my first task would be to repair and restore the image of the MCSO, which is that of a private club managed for the benefit of its members, not a professional law enforcement agency drawing its legitimacy and authority from the citizens. I don’t believe my current opponent, whose last stint in law enforcement ended 25 years ago, has the knowledge base, the experience in supervision, or the familiarity with any of the tools of a modern law enforcement office, all of which are critical to turn the MCSO around.
The sheriff's office in recent years has been beset by acrimony and a strained working relationship with the state's attorney's office. How do you plan to address this?
Two years ago, I promised to repair the tattered fabric of relationships between the MCSO and other county agencies and their leadership, and I have already taken important steps down that road. On this issue, I am certainly better positioned than my opponent. I have met frequently with State’s Attorney Bianchi over the past two years and he has endorsed and supported me throughout this election cycle. I doubt the State’s Attorney would be backing a candidate who he did not believe he could work with for the public good. And my opponent has already criticized Mr. Bianchi in a press release, so he’s not off to a flying start with respect to good relations. But beyond that, many other state and county level elected officials are supporting me versus my opponent, including a sizable number who backed someone else in the primary. I look forward to productive working relationships with all the elected officials in McHenry County, and have already forged relationships with a good many of them.
How will you build strong relationships with municipal police departments?
I came from a municipal police department, where I worked for 27 years. I know what city and village police are up against, and what support and assistance they need from the county sheriff. I have already met many of McHenry County’s police chiefs, and in time I intend to meet them all. Some municipalities have existing mutual assistance agreements and I intend to review them to see if they can be made stronger. Also, as a member of the board of Air-One Emergency Response Coalition, a not-for-profit organization which supports first-responder agencies with helicopter air-support, I will be in a position to assist municipal police chiefs with emergency assistance in time of need, such as natural disasters like tornadoes and floods.
What can be done to make the sheriff's office run more efficiently?
Reduce extravagant administrative spending. I have stated that I will immediately cut several high-paying and unnecessary administrative positions and will go through the budget and carve out other unnecessary positions, without reducing the number of uniformed officers or affecting safety. Another critical area involves the ongoing contract with the federal government in which the MCSO provides custodial beds for federal immigration prisoners. This is a complicated, high-dollar problem. My first step will be to ascertain whether this arrangement is still in the County’s best interest. I will seek assistance and cooperation from the County Board in sorting out this issue for the good of the taxpayers.
What can the sheriff's's office do to be more accessible to residents?
I have made volunteerism one of the keynotes of my campaign. I have always been a believer, and a participant, in volunteer programs, which I consider the glue that holds a community together. I developed and implemented volunteer adjunct programs in Des Plaines, and have actively volunteered myself in organizations like the Boy Scouts. As Sheriff, I will organize volunteer outreach programs that go beyond concepts like Neighborhood Watch to actively bring people of all ages together in ways that build community and encourage greater cooperation between law enforcement and those they serve. Not only will the Sheriff’s Office become more accessible to residents, they will feel they have an active stake in all the things the Sheriff’s Office does.
What is the most-pressing issue the sheriff's office faces?
Community credibility. From battles with other officeholders, to relentless crusades against employees who push back against clumsy and heavy-handed discipline, to Sergeants convicted of charges related to child predatory sexual acts, the Sheriff’s Office has developed a severe image problem in the community. We need to fix that, and that will be Job One. To address one aspect of this crisis, I will create an office of Internal Affairs that will be professional, impartial and create confidence among the public and the rank and file officers both.
How would you differentiate yourself from your opponent?
I have 27 years of experience in law enforcement, much of it on the administrative side. My opponent has only eight years, none of it supervisory or administrative in nature, and it ended 25 years ago. When he left the MCSO, computers were the size of microwave ovens and could only be found on desks. Now they are inside the squad cars and communicate wirelessly. The law enforcement field has come a long way, in other words, and while he was taking legal cases, I was moving up the command ranks and taking key roles in multi-jurisdictional task forces with state and federal agencies, like the DEA and U.S. Customs, using all the high-tech tools that police agencies can deploy these days. Not to mention the new management techniques developed over the intervening years. As well, there are dozens of new responsibilities and new laws police have undertaken in the interim, like all the new rules regarding Orders of Protection. They were all part of my daily routine at Des Plaines P.D. Mr. Harrison would have to learn them all from scratch, while simultaneously running the Office.