The new sheriffs in town: Hain, Idleburg, Mendrick discuss first days on the job
It wasn't just the political landscape in the suburbs that shifted dramatically last month when ballots were counted after the Nov. 6 election. Voters in DuPage, Kane and Lake counties chose new sheriffs, setting the stage for changes in law enforcement policies and practices affecting more than 2 million suburbanites.
The three newcomers -- John Idleburg in Lake, James Mendrick in DuPage and Ron Hain in Kane -- didn't have long to savor their Election Day victories. Each had less than a month before swearing-in ceremonies Monday to prepare for taking leadership of agencies with multimillion-dollar budgets, hundreds of employees and responsibilities ranging from traditional law enforcement, like traffic patrol and criminal investigation, to courthouse security, jail operations and civil processes such as foreclosures and auctions.
We checked in with the new sheriffs this week to learn how they prepared to take office, what their early interactions with their staffs were like and what they hope to accomplish in their early months on the job. Some of their answers have been edited for length.
Q: It's a quick turnaround from Election Day to being sworn in. How did you prepare yourself to assume leadership of the sheriff's office?
Mendrick:I have been fortunate to be able to be work side by side (with) the men and women of the sheriff's office during the time before and since the election. This has allowed me to continue fostering relationships, teamwork and camaraderie at all levels of the office. I have had many leadership roles at the sheriff's office working my way up from a patrol deputy and field training officer through the ranks to the administrative bureau chief. These positions and others have placed me in a unique position where I've been able to grow and expand my leadership skills throughout my career allowing me to hit the ground running on day one as sheriff.
Hain:Serving for over 20 years in law enforcement, 16 of which with the office I am assuming, and having run a two-year campaign for the position, it has been a process of identifying the greatest public safety concerns our community faces and designing relevant and detailed plans to solve them. I am more than ready to enter the position and begin executing on initiatives immediately.
Idleburg:I am humbled and honored the people of Lake County selected me as their sheriff. I believe my over 30 years of law-enforcement experience was a major factor in the minds of voters. My lifetime of service certainly helped to prepare me to lead the Lake County sheriff's office and serve the people of Lake County. Following election night, I formed a transition team of active and retired law-enforcement officers, so I could ensure I would be prepared to hit the ground running.
Q: What new programs or initiatives, or departmental changes, do you expect to enact within your first year in office?
Idleburg:The first thing I'm going to do is review the overall operations of the office. As I've said many times, I believe we have a tremendous group of employees working for the sheriff's office. This includes all of our sworn and civilian staff. I want to hear the input from our rank-and-file, as well as my command staff. From there, we will evaluate and determine the future path of the sheriff's office.
Mendrick:One of my first priorities is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse in our communities. I plan to expand both our Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T.) and our Post Crisis Response Team (P.C.R.T.) which will allow our deputies to provide bookend services to those in need. I will also streamline our fiscal platform to enhance programs and services. One approach I will be utilizing is to use advances in technology to reduce overall costs. For example, using App-Based technologies will allow our deputies the ability to record verbatim testimony from victims and witnesses while on the scene of an incident, as well as allowing for the immediate photographing of crime scenes with hand-held tablets which will save valuable time and costs.
Hain:Our command structure will focus on internal promotions and lateral assignments, along with relieving positions that were created for people outside of our office over the last term. We will be rolling out my redesign of our current antiquated patrol deployments within the first two months of the office. This will allow our deputies to function in a more responsive fashion to the modern Kane County and replace the patrol design we've had in place since the 1960s. Our jail will be implementing four different diversion programs designed to reduce our jail population, support citizens with opioid addiction and return inmates to the community with employment training and direct links to job opportunities.
Q: Have you reached out to other leadership or the rank-and-file in the sheriff's office? If so, what have you told them about what to expect from you? If not, when do you expect to do so, and what will you tell them?
Hain:I've had the luxury of working alongside my command staff and organized divisions throughout my career at KCSO. While I have met with many key staff members since Election Day, we'll be hosting departmentwide meetings during the second week of December to ensure all of our employees have the opportunity to understand and embrace the mission.
Idleburg:I have been speaking with both senior leadership and the rank-and-file. The first thing I said is that I support them. The men and women of the sheriff's office are the protectors of the community, and I'm grateful for their service. Our personnel are professionals, and they understand I expect their professionalism and service to the community to continue.
Mendrick:I have had open lines of communication at all levels of leadership at the sheriff's office, as well as with the men and women in all areas of the office. I have an open-door policy and I not only want people to use that policy, but I encourage them to! The members of the office can expect me to be the leader they need and to do so with positive reinforcement and recognition of the outstanding work they do on a daily basis. Law enforcement is taxing both mentally and physically and I will work tirelessly to provide for our office members and give them the tools they need to succeed.
Q: What is your chief priority after taking office?
Mendrick:My first and foremost priority is to build stronger relationships between the sheriff's office and the people of DuPage County we serve. We will get back to grass-roots community-based policing with more face-to-face contact and genuine relationship building with our citizens. Furthermore, it's paramount that the sheriff's office develop fiscally sound budgeting and spending methods, which will allow us to provide a large realm of programs and services for our citizens.
Hain:We will be prioritizing the revamping of our patrol structure, implementing a cyber crimes/child sexploitation investigation initiative, dialing down on the heroin epidemic, and implementing our diversion programs in the jail to truly provide a corrective direction for our offending citizens.
Idleburg:As the largest law-enforcement agency in Lake County, it is our duty to have a highly reputable office. I am going to make it a priority to ensure we are a top-tier organization at every level. I am going to ensure the safety of our schools, houses of worship and businesses are a priority. One of my objectives is to look at inmate programming. I believe we need to expand our programming to ensure inmates have the resources they so desperately need once they are released from custody. This could reduce recidivism, which will ultimately save taxpayer dollars. Additionally, I intend on strengthening and expanding our community relationships across Lake County, as I believe our community and law enforcement are equal partners.
Hawks still hot for some
Given their on-ice struggles, the Blackhawks may longer be the hottest ticket in town. But it seems they remain popular with at least one group -- thieves.
According to an Arlington Heights police report we spotted this week, two men swiped 15 Blackhawks jerseys valued at $3,400 from a Dick's Sporting Goods store Dec. 2. No suspects have been arrested.
Got a tip?
Lake County Crime Stoppers is now taking anonymous tips online through the site www.P3Tips.com. Once a tip is submitted, the tipster will receive a unique code and password for that tip.
Tips also can be submitted online at www.lakecountycrimestoppers.com or by calling (847) 622-2222.
The new options are possible thanks to financial support from the Lake County sheriff's office and the Mundelein, Waukegan, Gurnee and North Chicago police departments.
• Got a tip or thoughts on a cops and crime-related issue to share? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.