Kane County sheriff's candidates outline plans to deal with school safety and staffing

School safety and staffing levels are among the top issues for candidates vying to head the Kane County sheriff's office for the next four years.

Incumbent Ron Hain, a Democrat with 24 years experience as a sworn officer, is seeking his second term. His challenger, Republican Jeff Bodin, is a sheriff's deputy with 15 years' experience.

Here's what they had to say on these key issues.

School safety

The sheriff's office has full-time school resource officers at Kaneland and Burlington Central high schools, both located in unincorporated Kane County. The SROs also provide oversight for the middle and elementary schools in Kaneland Unit District 302 and Central Unit District 301.

Bodin says that's not enough.

He would push to have an armed officer at every school in the county. He says he would rely on volunteer auxiliary officers or retired officers to patrol each school but added the federal government should come up with funding to provide armed officers at every school nationwide.

"Doing nothing is not a plan at all," the 38-year-old Sugar Grove resident said. "Leaving our schools vulnerable with the school shootings is just not an option anymore."

Hain said Bodin's plan has concerned school officials.

"Schools are alarmed," the 46-year-old Elburn resident said. "They don't like the idea of having an armed guard forced upon them."

Bodin said if a school district did not want an armed officer in its schools, he would opt to place an armed officer in a car outside the school.

Hain said he has worked with school districts to ensure they have secure entryways at all buildings and has provided training to school districts across the county. He also respects a school district's autonomy and says forcing something such as an armed guard on a district would harm those relationships.

"We have had strong, safe schools in Kane County because of our relationships," he said.

Staffing levels

Both Bodin and Hain support 10-hour shifts for deputies. Currently, the sheriff's uses an eight-hour shift model.

Hain said switching to 10-hour shifts would be a "dream come true," noting that instituting such a model was one of his campaign platforms when he first ran for sheriff in 2018. But, he added, it's not as simple as dictating a change. The deputies union must sign off on it, and each shift has to be properly staffed.

Though he has not been able to implement a 10-hour shift, Hain said he has worked to increase staffing levels. Since he was elected, the sheriff's office has gone from 82 sworn deputies to 93. Hain also implemented a mandatory minimum - a first for the department - of six deputies and one sergeant per shift and revamped patrol areas that hadn't been updated since the 1950s. The departmental changes have helped cut response times by more than half throughout the county, he said.

"Do I want more deputies? Absolutely," Hain said, adding he has to work within budgetary constraints. "We're getting there. We are doing the absolute best with what we've been given."

Bodin supports a 10-hour shift model, saying it would increase staffing levels per shift and could result in as many as 20 deputies on shift during the overlap hours. He also would shift some deputies from other units, such as the drug unit, to increase the number of deputies patrolling the streets.

"To have seven total (patrol) cars for 65,000 people is just unsafe," Bodin said referring to the number of people living in unincorporated areas.

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