Lake County sheriff candidates debate SAFE-T Act merits, myths

Two men seeking to lead the Lake County Sheriff's Office say voters are most concerned about the merits and myths surrounding the SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice reform package that includes ending cash bail in Illinois.

Incumbent Sheriff John Idleburg, a Zion Democrat, said often he has to correct people who are misinformed or have been lied to about what the law will do come Jan. 1.

"There is a lot of misleading information about the SAFE-T Act," Idleburg said during a Daily Herald Editorial Board interview. "I think there are people who have put fear within our community about the program."

One widely debunked claim is that under the SAFE-T Act law enforcement officers won't be able to arrest someone for trespassing on a person's private property. The SAFE-T Act requires police officers to ticket people accused of low-level offenses, including criminal trespass to property, but "officers still have the discretion to arrest someone if they determine that they threaten public safety," according to a fact check on the act by Injustice Watch, a nonpartisan organization.

Idleburg said he's told people on the campaign trail that when a resident reports someone is trespassing on their property a deputy will come out and tell the person they need to leave and will be able to arrest the person if they determine it is necessary.

"(If) you said that this person is a threat to you and your family that individual will be detained and they will be escorted off the property," Idleburg said.

But in a separate interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board, challenger Mark Vice, a Round Lake Republican, cited that same debunked claim as one reason he's 100% against the law. Vice is a 16-year veteran of the sheriff's office.

Vice, who is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Deputy Union and Fraternal Lodge 66, said Idleburg's support of the SAFE-T Act has contributed to what he called a decline in morale in the sheriff's office.

"We want to make sure we have a leader that's going to support us and stand with us, not stand against us and make our job harder," Vice said.

When asked about morale, Idleburg said he believes the contentious spring primary and the current election have led to tensions among the ranks but he doesn't think they will last.

"Once we get past this election I believe that we will get beyond this and I think we will all be one team moving forward," Idleburg said.

Idleburg's campaign entered October with around $54,800 more in the bank than Vice's campaign, according to state records.

Vice started July with $1,335, received $22,943, spent $12,829 and by the end of September had $10,114, according to the third-quarter report.

Idleburg started July with $7,951, and received $80,819, including $54,800 from the JB for Governor Exploratory Committee. After spending $23,838 during the reporting period, Idleburg has $64,932 available for the final stretch of the campaign.

Idleburg won his first term beating then-Sheriff Mark Curran in November 2018 by 137 votes out of 245,633 cast - a difference of just .06%. The close result led to the first large-scale recount in Illinois since 2003 and the first in Lake County. Two days into a four-day recount of selected precincts Curran conceded the race.

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