DuPage sheriff wants $5.3 million to restore dozens of full-time posts

DuPage Sheriff James Mendrick is asking the county board to give his department more than $5 million in additional funding and restore dozens of full-time positions.

The county board's finance committee this week reviewed Mendrick's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts Dec. 1.

Mendrick is requesting a budget of roughly $50.4 million for the sheriff's office for the 2020 fiscal year.

That's roughly $5.3 million more than the department's current spending plan.

"I know it's a big ask for this 2020 budget," Mendrick said.

And while it may be difficult for the county to fund all at once, Mendrick said, "we are asking for a meaningful road map to get our office back into the position where we can decrease patrol response times, do more proactive patrol, cut down our jail overtime and safely cover all of our courtrooms in our courthouse."

Mendrick said the department has made a great deal of progress in the nine months since he replaced former Sheriff John Zaruba.

Under Mendrick's leadership, the sheriff's office has, among other things, pursued grants to pay for initiatives, replaced in-car laptops with tablets, stepped up its effort to confiscate revoked firearm owner's identification cards, started handing out free drug deactivation bags, and partnered with municipal police departments to create the Metropolitan Emergency Response and Investigation Team, or MERIT.

But Mendrick said it's been a "challenge" for the department to meet all of its responsibilities with its existing head count of 392 sworn deputies and 95 civilian employees.

He said the sheriff's office's total head count has been reduced by 39 positions over the past four years.

So he's asking the county board to restore 34 full-time positions.

If the request is approved, Mendrick said, the department would be able to hire 30 sworn deputies, two nurses for jail medical, and two civilian booking officers.

The sheriff is anticipating that a dozen of the sworn deputy positions will be converted to lower-paid court security officer positions to help protect the courthouse.

"No matter what our budget appropriation turns out to be," Mendrick said, "I promise to continue working as hard as I can to make DuPage County a safer place for all of our families."

No decision was made after Mendrick's presentation. But several county board members who heard it told Mendrick afterward that they support his budget request.

"I am committed to working with you," said board member Jim Zay, a Carol Stream Republican. "I know it's a big ask, but I'm committed to working with you and finding more money for your office."

Board member Pete DiCianni said the sheriff should get the head count he's requesting.

"I know you're fighting an uphill battle because you're working with the head count that was given to (Zaruba)," the Elmhurst Republican said to Mendrick.

"So I think it's important that we step up as a board and support you."

Chairman Dan Cronin is scheduled to present his proposed county budget to the board Sept. 24.

Cronin will consider information from the budget discussions when drafting the overall spending plan.

County board members have until Nov. 30 to approve a budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

James Mendrick
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