Lake County sheriff candidate: Cut high-ranking jobs to hire new deputies
The Democratic challenger for Lake County sheriff on the Nov. 4 ballot said he would put more deputies on the street and fund the change by cutting two high-ranking deputy chief positions.
However, incumbent Mark Curran, a Republican, said Jason Patt's idea to decrease the number of deputy chiefs from five to three shows his lack of management skills.
"To throw this out there without any type of management analysis study goes to the fact that (Patt) is flying by the seat of his pants," Curran said. "That's not the way we operate."
Patt, 36, of Zion, works as an investigator with the Lake County Coroner's Office. Curran, 51, of Libertyville, is a former attorney who was elected to the office in 2006.
The sheriff's office has more than 600 employees, who are overseen by the sheriff, an undersheriff, three command chiefs, and five command deputy chiefs, Curran said.
Patt said the office has too many chiefs and deputy chiefs, and not enough officers working as patrolmen or at the Lake County jail to help reduce crime and response times.
"The overall goal is, of course, to reduce crime and to have a larger police presence," Patt said. "I've talked to a lot of citizens and many have said it takes a long time to get someone to their house."
For example, he said, Beach Park has one sheriff's deputy squad car dedicated to patrol the community, and stressed that isn't enough.
To add more officers to the street, Patt said, he would demote two deputy chiefs to the rank of lieutenant, eliminate those deputy chief positions from the budget, then transfer the employees to vacant positions in other sheriff office departments. He would use the potential budgetary savings to hire new deputies, he said.
"It would be one deputy chief from the corrections side and one from the highway patrol side," Patt said.
Patt said he is unsure of the exact amount of savings, but estimated it would be around $200,000.
He defended his management experience, saying he served in a leadership position as a lead petty officer in the U.S. Navy.
Curran argued there currently are only a dozen or so nonunion employees above the rank of lieutenant to oversee 600 unionized employees.
"Here you have a guy who has never been a command officer, never held any rank of any kind, but doesn't think he needs to surround himself with people who know more than he does," Curran said, adding the sheriff's office is not top heavy as Patt suggests. "There are more officers on the street today than ever before because of the changes we made over the years. Some of those changes were very unpopular with the rank and file, but it saved the county millions of dollars."
To put more officers on the street, Curran said he replaced numerous expensive, full-time officers working court house security with much cheaper part-time retired officers.
"Those officers that were once sitting in a courtroom are now out on the road in some capacity or the other," he said. "It not only saved the county money, but added more officers out on the streets."