The sheriff candidates are Democrat Mike Chapman, Republican Tom Hansen, Independent John King, Independent Steve Cox and Independent Gregory Lance.
Here are statements of those who participated in a WRNR-TV10 forum on Sept. 29 for sheriff candidates.
Mike Chapman: I’ve spent the last 30 years of my career making businesses more efficient, more cost effective and more customer-service oriented. I also served as a reserve deputy for 10 years where I logged thousands of hours in a police cruiser trying to make the citizens of Jefferson County safer. During that time I served the community in many other capacities in civic organizations and nonprofits. I have a strong network of relationships throughout the community and a reputation as a trustworthy leader.
I plan to be a transformational leader as sheriff. My approach employs compassion, common sense, transparency, accountability and collaboration. It will include community input. It will include protecting your constitutional rights. It will be taxpayer friendly. And although I expect serious struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will get through this. And it will slow me down in achieving my goals and deliverables, but we will move the department forward despite any budget cuts we may be facing. …
I want to bring sort of a new era into the Sheriff’s Office. I believe a lot of the problems in communities we’re seeing across the country are due to the fact that there’s a divide between law enforcement and the communities they serve. So what can we do to fill that gap? One thing I think is to get the community involved in policing.
As a candidate, one of the things I’ve found out is that people have things that they want to discuss with the Sheriff’s Office, and either they don’t have an avenue to do that or they don’t feel safe in doing so, so they come to the candidate and say, ‘Hey, when you become sheriff can you do this for us. And it might be increased patrols. It might be just the way the drug recognition experts do things. I’ve gotten so much feedback.
Well, why isn’t the sheriff having forums on these things now? Because these are the things that the community wants from the Sheriff’s Office. One of the things I want to do is create events or opportunities for the community to be involved in their own policing. … One of the things would be a sheriff’s advisory committee. Another would be something called Coffee with a Cop where people can meet with the sheriff and a deputy and express their concerns. …
I agree that staffing is an urgent need, but more specifically retention is the critical need there. You know the day in which we live, you’re hearing defund the police, I hate the police. It takes its told on our officers. And something happened a few months ago, the deputy sheriff’s association submitted a letter to the county commission requesting that they develop a pay scale system for them so that they have a future—to know what to look forward to if they put in their 20 or 30 years at the Sheriff’s Office. The county commission basically ignored it.
They don’t have an advocate right now. There’s no one that’s advocating for them, for their longevity in the department, in their career. So one of the things I hope to do is to be an advocate for the staff on hand. Yes, it’s great to hire new deputies, but it takes awhile to get them trained and ready to go. It’s also an expensive process to get them through the academy. So I want to really work to retain the trained, experienced, knowledgeable team that we have right now, and then supplement it with additional deputies.
Steve Cox: I got a phone call from a mother of an individual that I bonded out two weeks ago. She’s been working with probation to get her son put back in jail because she feels that he’s going to die from his addiction. She called me this morning, very early in the morning, to say she found her son with a bag of heroin and that he was in a very bad condition. She called law enforcement. She called me after that. She said, “Steve, please help me.”
For the last eight hours of the day I’ve been searching for this young man to come off his bond and put him back in jail because it’s the only hope we have of saving his life.
For 20 years I’ve been involved in this law enforcement game. First, as a police officer in Ranson, then as a law enforcement instructor with the federal government.
And it wasn’t until two years ago when I started my company, Cox Bailbonding, that I saw how far law enforcement has separated itself from compassion. And I knew then that I wanted to run for sheriff, and that I wanted to bring compassion back to law enforcement.
With that said, I’m gong to yield all of my time back to all of the other candidates. I was not successful today so far in finding the individual in saving his life, so I’m going to get back out there and do it, but I’m not going to do it before inviting each and every one of those gentleman up here on this stage: If you want to see the real, ugly side of Jefferson County, give me a call and I’ll show it to you, and we’ll go find this guy together and save his life.
So I yield back all of my [forum] time, and I’m going to have to dismiss myself.
Tom Hansen: I started my law enforcement career in 1995—I’m sorry, in 1976—as a military policeman. And in 1995, I was hired by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. I retired from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 20 years at the rank of lieutenant. I transitioned from … military law enforcement to civilian law enforcement as I was hired by a police department in Maryland called Landover Hills. I met and married my beautiful wife Jenny who was raised here and we moved to Jefferson County and I’ve lived here longer than any other place in my adult life. I care about the people of Jefferson County and I care about what’s going on in Jefferson County.
I’ve run the gamut in my law enforcement career. I caught bank robbers. I’ve saved the life of an 18-month-old baby.
The reason why I’m running for sheriff, I was at a hearing at the Sheriff’s Office last October and no less than half—probably close to all of the deputies working that day—came to me at separate times and said you’re running for sheriff again. I’ve been a leader of those men, and when they came to me and said we need you, that’s when I filed for sheriff. …
I believe wholeheartedly that you lead from the front. I’ve been leading men or troops since I put sergeant’s stripes on on my shoulders in 1998—no in 1978. Because of that I know what they need to have. I know what they need to have to do the job. …
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has been below the U.S. Department of Justice minimum [for manpower for population of residents served] since I was hired. … We should have approximately 45 deputies on right now and we don’t. … One of the ways to do it is, first of all, to have a plan to hire more deputies and help to finance them through Department of Justice grants and things like that. … What I plan on doing as soon as I take office is to assign the deputies a patrol area. They’ll be responding to that area to handle those crimes in that specific in that specific area. … So that not only do the citizens of Jefferson County get to see deputies and get to see law enforcement officials, but they also, our deputies, find out what’s going on in their specific area.
John King: I spent 32 years with the United States Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. I was a patrol officer, a K-9 supervisor, a K-9 handler, a bomb technician, a protective agent, internal affairs investigator. I’ve run the gamut of operations, but also I understand administration. Our K-9 budget allowance was $14.3 million. I worked for the deputy chief writing policies for racial bias profiling, use of force directives, and accountability for that. …The first step is to get into office and then perform a needs assessment to look at the things we’re doing well and the things that maybe we could do better. Looking at it also from the financial cost of things to do versus policy things. Are the policy books and manuals up to speed? Are we supporting the community the way we should?
I fortunately have the experience to be able to write directives and look at policies, and do procurement and do bids and do contracting and work with [the Government Service Agency] and understand all of those types of financial situations also. … In one point in my career I had to oversee over 100 people administratively in my division. So I understand how to work with people, how to deal with personnel issues.
I really want to bring that forward and help enhance and make the Sheriff’s Office a more user-friendly and modernized environment.