Clinton County voters will elect a new sheriff when they head to the polls for the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
To help voters decide which candidate best aligns with their beliefs, The Observer asked Republican candidate Bill Greenwalt and Democrat candidate Steve Diesch to respond to seven questions.
Both candidates received the same questions and their responses were limited to 300 words per question. They were asked to supply their responses by 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17; both candidates complied.
Their responses are printed verbatim.
1. How would you ensure you and your deputies provide fair and equal treatment for all?
I can think of nothing more important than providing good leadership and exceptional training to the men and women of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). The patrol deputies, detectives, corrections officers, bailiffs and support staff, who proudly serve the citizens of CCSO, deserve to be led by a Sheriff who has the training, experience and personality, to transition the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office into the future. If a law enforcement agency lacks good leadership, or is deficient in training, not only does the agency suffer, but the community does too. Ensuring deputies provide fair and equal treatment to all citizens, starts at the top, with the Sheriff. The Sheriff must set the example for others to follow, which is as simple as leading by example. With over thirty years of law enforcement experience, my record of treating all people in a courteous and respectful manner has never changed. During my law enforcement career, I have been asked by many of my peers, “How do you bring someone to jail and they end-up shaking your hand before you leave?” My response has always been the same, “Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated, if the shoe was on the other foot.” I believe respect and trust are earned, not something bestowed by wearing a badge. I can assure you as Sheriff, my expectations of how deputies interact with citizens, will be clear and the bar will be set high. I also believe when deputies and staff have a clear understanding of the expectations, they will work hard to meet, or exceed, those expectations. If elected Sheriff, I will lead the men and women of the CCSO, and serve the citizens of this county, in a manner they can trust and be proud of.
2. Voters approved and paid for a new Clinton County law center, which opened in the summer of 2019. Is that facility being utilized to its full potential? If so, how? If not, what can be done to use the space better?
In 2016 the voter’s approved a bond referendum for Clinton County to spend $22 million dollars to build a new jail. Unfortunately, the costs associated with the construction of the new facility have exceeded the $22 million dollars, approved by voters. The cost of the new facility has exceeded what was approved by voters, by nearly $3 million dollars. Even with my limited experience in construction management, most construction projects use a 5%-10% contingency rate; however, based on these numbers, the overage costs are closer to 20%.
I supported replacing the former jail facility; however, only with the understanding the jail would better serve the needs of the criminal justice system. I feel the new facility exceeds the needs of the Clinton County taxpayers and I will work to minimize any additional expenses associated with the new facility. I look forward to reviewing the policies, procedures and financial reports on the new jail and plan to address rumors of additional staff being hired to operate the jail, when it was sold to the community, that there would be no need for increased staffing.
I also have serious concerns about how local law enforcement has been limited on what offenders they are allowed to bring to jail, yet, offenders from out of county facilities, are being brought in and housed in the Clinton County Jail. I completely agree with housing out-of-county offenders, especially to help offset the costs associated with the construction of the new facility, but only if local law enforcement is given priority to bring new arrests to jail. Local offenders are fully aware law enforcement is limited on who may be brought to jail and these offenders often remind the officers that they are to be given a citation, rather than being brought to jail.
3. Clinton County recently installed a body camera program. How will you ensure the body cameras are used correctly?
First, I want to clarify there is a significant difference between purchasing body cameras and ensuring the agency has a good program in place. Most law enforcement agencies spend months researching, testing, and evaluating body cameras. One of the biggest challenges of implementing a program is ensuring the videos captured, are downloaded in a timely manner and retained for court, which in some cases, are required to be held for over twenty years. As Deputy Chief, I was instrumental in the implementation of a successful body camera program, within the Clinton Police Department. I spent over 18 months, working with a team of officers, researching, testing, and evaluating body cameras, before the program was implemented. Upon implementation, the same team worked with the County Attorney’s Office to create and implement a policy and procedure, governing the use of the cameras and retention of the digital evidence.
There are very few ways to ensure the body worn cameras are being used correctly unless you take the time to randomly review footage from the cameras. As Sheriff, I would mandate supervisors take the time to randomly review body camera footage, not to undermine or find fault in the officers, but to ensure the cameras are being used properly and to identify any training deficiencies. When body cameras were first being implemented, officers were resistive to wear or activate the cameras, now law enforcement officers are upset when the cameras are not working properly and demand they be fixed immediately. As Sheriff, I will use my in-depth research, knowledge and experience of body worn cameras, to ensure the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office body-worn camera program is properly being used and we work with the community to be as transparent as we can with the digital evidence.
4. What are the three most pressing challenges facing law enforcement in Clinton County, and how do you plan to address them?
There are many pressing challenges faced by law enforcement in Clinton County and determining the most important challenges can change from day to day. I believe two of the most important issues are the ongoing drug problem and mental health crisis. The third pressing challenge is building and maintaining good community relations. The drug epidemic has touched all corners of this country, with Clinton County being no exception. Unfortunately, even though my opponent states on his brochures he, “Continues to Diligently Combat Drug Issues throughout Clinton County”, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office has not had anyone dedicated to working narcotics cases, for over fifteen years. I am also the only candidate for Sheriff with an extensive background in narcotics investigations, working as an undercover agent with the Blackhawk Area Taskforce for nearly four years. A large portion of criminal activity, including theft, burglary, assaults, and violent crime, are linked to the sale of illegal drugs, and I intend to dedicate more staff and resources to address this problem. As Sheriff, I will commit additional resources and partner with the Blackhawk Area Taskforce, to address the growing drug problem.
Mental health is another challenge law enforcement faces nearly every day. Mental health is taxing on budgets, staff, and resources at all levels. In my current position, I have implemented and committed officers to a Crisis Intervention Team and adopted the “One Mind Campaign”, with both programs designed to address the challenges of responding to calls involving those in mental health crisis.
Community relations are critical to the success of any law enforcement agency and as Sheriff, I will ensure the agency works hard to stay connected to the community and take the time to meet with community leaders and elected officials.
5.What characteristics most set you apart from your opponent?
I believe there are several characteristics that set me apart from my opponent, with the two of the most important qualities being, experience and personality. With thirty years as a full-time law enforcement officer and having served in nearly every aspect of law enforcement, I feel my training, experience and leadership clearly set me apart from my opponent. I currently serve as the Deputy Police Chief of the Clinton Police Department and oversee 47 sworn law enforcement officers and 12 non-sworn personnel. I also have direct oversight of department operations, scheduling, budgeting, hiring, promoting, and training. Additionally, I am the only candidate with ten years of law enforcement management experience. I currently manage a $6.5 million-dollar annual budget, and am proud to say under my leadership, we have never overspent the budget. During my career, my hard work and dedication to public safety has been acknowledged by local, state, and federal authorities. In 2006, I was awarded the Clinton Police Department’s “Lifesaving Award”, followed by in 2009, being awarded the “Chief’s Award for Achievement”. Also, in 2009, during the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Conference, I was awarded the Commissioner of Public Safety Award for “Outstanding Service to the Cause of Reducing Injuries and Loss of Life in Traffic Crashes in Iowa”.
I believe my outgoing and friendly personality also sets me apart from my opponent. I have been the same approachable officer I have been, since the first day of my career, and remain the same friendly and approachable officer, nearly thirty years later. I have not changed my personality because of my candidacy for Clinton County Sheriff and it will not change, if elected. I am a genuine, caring, and compassionate individual who enjoys interacting with the community and works hard to keep the citizens of this county safe.
6.What kind of training do you think is necessary for sheriff’s deputies to do their jobs well?
Training is the backbone to effective policing. Training needs to be effective and beneficial to the deputies’ duties. The complexities of modern policing require law enforcement agencies to expand how deputies, corrections officers and bailiffs are trained. One of the key components to having a well-run agency, is ensuring the staff continues to receive quality training, long after they graduate from their basic training. Unfortunately, due to staffing levels, it is difficult to pull staff from their normally assigned duties and send them to training. I understand the importance of having a well-trained staff and am committed to ensuring the men and women of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, receive regular and quality training. To achieve the necessary training, I would continue to use in-person training and increase the amount of online training. Online training is offered at a relatively low cost from various law enforcement training vendors across the country. The benefit of using online training is that it allows deputies to participate in training through the mobile computers in their squad cars and allows them to remain in the field. There are several state and federal training options, which come with little or no cost to the county. The Midwest Counterdrug Training Center in Johnston, Iowa, offers tuition free training for law enforcement officers. In addition to the tuition free courses, many are offered with free lodging, essentially making the training costs limited to only fuel and food. The list of necessary training for a deputy, corrections officer, or bailiff, is very lengthy. Law enforcement officers are required to have annual training in firearms, CPR, mental health first aid, and an additional twelve hours of training, annually. As Sheriff, I would ensure all staff are provided with more than the state minimums.
7.What would be your top three priorities as Clinton County sheriff?
If elected Sheriff, the top three priorities would be to reduce overall crime, reduce spending of taxpayer money and address the health and safety of law enforcement officers.
During this campaign I have had the opportunity to talk with numerous citizens throughout Clinton County. One of the most frequent concerns voiced by the citizens, was the lack of feeling safe in their homes and their desire to see a reduction of crime. Criminals must be held accountable and as Sheriff, I will take a tough, no-nonsense stance on those who violate our community’s safety and well-being.
In addition to reducing crime, the next biggest concern brought to my attention, is the citizen’s desire for the next Sheriff to be a good steward of the taxpayer’s money. Many of the citizen’s concerns relate to the costs associated with the remodeling of the Clinton County Sheriff’s satellite office, in DeWitt, and the cost overruns on the construction of the new jail. I believe the citizens are more concerned with having enough deputies on the streets to ensure their safety and well-being, rather than constructing or remodeling facilities. If elected Sheriff, I vow to closely monitor spending and minimize any unnecessary expenditures on facilities and construction projects.
Nationally, one of the biggest concerns across the country for law enforcement leaders is the health and safety of their officers. Officers are challenged daily, both physically and mentally, which can be confirmed by the number of officers injured on-the-job each day. With the number of law enforcement applicants drastically reducing, law enforcement leaders must begin to pay close attention to the health and safety of their officer, to prevent long-term staffing shortages.