Lake County sheriff candidate questions workforce diversity under incumbent
The Democratic candidate for Lake County sheriff says the office's diversity doesn't match the area it serves.
John Idleburg of Zion Township said incumbent Mark Curran has not done enough to hire minorities to serve as sworn deputies on the street and in the courthouse.
"There should be diversity among the officers in the public," Idleburg said. "But, if you look at the numbers, it does not reflect that."
Curran said there's room for improvement, but his office has gone above and beyond to try to make the workforce as diverse as possible.
Curran, 55, a Republican from Libertyville, is seeking his fourth term as sheriff in the Nov. 6 election. Idleburg, 62, is a retired special agent with the United States Treasury.
The sheriff's office employs 234 sworn personnel, including deputies, court security officers, marine unit officers, and others with the statutory authority to make arrests, officials said. Of that number: nine -- about 4 percent -- are African-American; 18 -- about 8 percent -- are Hispanic; and seven -- about 3 percent -- are Asian, according to statistics supplied by the sheriff's office.
Idleburg said those statistics show Curran has not done enough to boost diversity in the office.
"The community should be a reflection of the sheriff's office, and the sheriff's office should be a reflection of the community," he said.
But the statistics also show 3 percent of the total population in the jurisdiction covered by the office are African-American, and 10 percent are Hispanic. In addition, 76 percent of the people who live in the jurisdiction are white, 5 percent are Asian and 6 percent are listed as another race or two or more races.
Those figures are in line with the population make up, Curran said, but he would like to have more sworn minority officers.
"We are doing a lot, but it would be to our advantage to improve on those numbers," he said.
Curran also said the hiring process to bring in a sworn deputy is at the mercy of a merit commission tasked with hiring recruits.
Applicants must go to an initial recruitment event, take a physical and a written exam, then must take a psychological and lie detector test before meeting with the merit commission for an interview.
Recruits are then placed numerically on a list to be hired, Curran said. The ethnicity of the applicants is not included when the list is released to the sheriff's office.
"There's a process in place that needs to be followed when hiring sworn personnel," Curran said. "The hiring process in the jail is different. We do not need to go through the merit commission when we hire someone to work there."
Of all 523 employees in the office, 13 percent are African-American, 8 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Asian, 2017 figures show. Curran said 24 percent of employees working as correction officers are African-American, and 10 percent are Hispanic.
He also pointed out that 12 percent of sworn administration officials and 23 percent of the office's overall workforce are women.
"I don't know that you will find a sheriff more committed to diversity than I am," Curran said. "We want diversity. Diversity makes us a better agency."