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 feel accountability starts at the top and begins with ethical leadership. I believe in leading by example with the conduct I expect from all employees. As Sheriff, I will ensure that staff are fully trained and held to the higher standard that demands of the position. I will continue to lead the Sheriff’s Office with openness, honesty and integrity. Regular review and updates of policies and procedures will be conducted to meet the needs of the everchanging world we are in. Continued emphasis will be place on training to ensure all staff are given the training and tools necessary to complete the job. The new body worn cameras that I implemented ensure transparency and accountability for both the citizens of Clinton County and the Deputies. Regular review by supervisors of body worn or scene video will be conducted to ensure fair and equal treatment of all citizens. These checks will be done both randomly and immediately upon complaint. I will continue to run the Sheriff’s office with honesty and integrity and ensure that any officer involved incident or accident is handled impartially by another agency. This creates transparency and fairness. If a citation or discipline is necessary, the appropriate action will be taken as it would for anybody else.
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?
I am the only candidate with jail management experience and certified to work in the jail. The new Clinton County Jail could not have come at a better time. COVID-19 has caused many necessary changes to corrections state and nationwide. Like all correctional facilities in the State of Iowa and across the country, we have had to limit the amount of people being brought into the facility. The courts have implemented cite and release and signature bond programs to reduce the possible introduction of COVID-19 into jail. Everyone brought to jail has to be separated until their initial appearance. The morning following their arrest, all inmates are seen by a judge who determines if the inmate is held or released. If the inmate is held, they must be quarantined for 14 days prior to being placed in general population. The new negative pressure medical cells allow for the separation of inmates showing symptoms of COVID-19 without risking the exposure to the other inmates and staff. If the jail has a COVID-19 outbreak, it will have to be shut down and will be unable to take any new arrests. Like schools, we have had to limit other providers from coming in the jail, so some of the programs have been put on hold. The old jail would not have allowed us to hold nearly as many inmates as the new jail. Once we figure out what the new normal is, I still plan to implement new no-cost programs in the jail, utilizing the classrooms. These programs would include Iowa Work Force Development to help inmates write resumes and fill out job applications and HiSet/GED programs. If we can provide basic tools for re-entry in the community, we can help prevent future arrests.
3. Clinton County recently installed a body camera program. How will you ensure the body cameras are used correctly?
New policies and procedures were created and reviewed by members of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and approved by the Clinton County Attorney for use of the body worn cameras. These policies were created to protect the citizens and Deputies. The squad and body worn cameras automatically turn on when the emergency lights are activated in the patrol car and remain on until the call has ended. Cameras are activated on non-emergency calls by the deputy when they arrive on scene. Every Deputy on scene is required to record until they clear the scene. Supervisors will review videos daily to ensure policies are being followed and any issues will be addressed immediately.
4. What are the three most pressing challenges facing law enforcement in Clinton County, and how do you plan to address them?
Mental health and substance abuse have become a big issue in our community and nationwide. I will continue to send staff through Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), teaching them to recognize and communicate with people in crisis and provide them the resources to get them the help needed instead of continuously taking them to jail. We will continue to reach out and work with the Mental Health Region to provide resources and alternate placement options other than jail. There are serious drug issues facing the county. Many of these issues come out of the City of Clinton. The Blackhawk Area Task Force requires officers involved to work in both Iowa and Illinois. Instead of joining the task force, I would like to build on the relationships that we have with other agencies in our county to focus on the drug issues in Clinton County. I believe if we collaborate with all area law enforcement agencies, we could make significant progress in the fight against drugs and drug related crimes. Lastly, public perception of law enforcement has been a growing issue nationwide. Openness and transparency are key to public perception. Along with this, I plan on implementing a community policing program in the Sheriff’s Office. This program begins with our D.A.R.E./School Resource Officer having positive interactions with kids in the community. I would like to grow our Reserve Deputy Program to include additional community policing opportunities. I started my career in law enforcement as a Reserve Deputy and believe they are an asset to the Sheriff’s Office.
5. What characteristics most set you apart from your opponent?
My 23 years of experience working throughout the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office has taught me the importance of communication and respect. We have training in many different areas of law enforcement. I listen with an open mind to the knowledge of other members with different experience. I respect the opinions of others and collaborate ideas to provide the best solution for the Sheriff’s Office and community. I trust the training and experience of staff. I believe it is important to grow our staff into leadership roles for futures opportunities in the Sheriff’s Office.
My fiscal responsibility sets me apart. I believe that spending should be used for needed items, not frivolous items. New vehicles are purchased for the Patrol Deputies and older vehicles are repurposed for administration. It is important to get quality equipment to those who need it the most. I will continue to be fiscally responsible and spend the tax payer dollars wisely. Along with the Jail Administrator, we have implemented a new banking system in the jail that has collected outstanding debt owed by inmates from past arrests. This program has recovered approximately $40,000 in the past year and a half of use. We have re-evaluated other areas of spending, including food service in the jail, to save taxpayers additional money. By being fiscally responsible, we were able to return $500,000 back to the general fund this year.
6. What kind of training do you think is necessary for sheriff’s deputies to do their jobs well?
I would continue to build on and supplement the training that deputies and correctional officers learn in their basic academy classes and jail schools to stay sharp and relevant on the constant changes made in the field. In addition to the basic training classes, correctional officers and deputies also undergo a field training program to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to effectively complete their jobs. In addition to all that, there is specialized training for members of our tactical team, specialized monthly training for our K-9 partners, and monthly on-line training for legal updates and certifications. It is imperative to continue educating our staff to assist them to be the best that they can be to better serve the citizens. Once on the job, deputies or correctional officers are often able to find further avenues of interests within their duties. I would continue to implement CIT training and expand de-escalation and less lethal training. I would continue to encourage and support members in seeking out specialized training to expand their knowledge and skills. I would like to utilize the large conference room in the law center to bring hands-on training for all area law enforcement. I believe that training is an investment in them as an employee and it comes back ten-fold in what they are able to bring to the agency and citizens.
7. What would be your top three priorities as Clinton County sheriff?
My top three priorities as Sheriff are to utilize unmarked patrol vehicles, realign staff to best serve the community needs, and create a community policing program. Unmarked vehicles allow us to patrol without easily being spotted. This will allow us to be more effective in burglary prevention and detection.
I will evaluate current assignments and ask for input from Sheriff’s Office members to identify the best utilization of staff for drug interdiction, crime prevention and detection. I will utilize our current K-9 program to supplement our Patrol Deputies and Investigators. Currently, K-9 Deputies are assigned to an area and respond to regular calls. I would like to refocus their attention on traffic enforcement, drug interdiction, and human trafficking. This will allow us to identify ongoing criminal activity moving through our county and state highways. I would like to expand the availability of investigators by exploring alternate work schedules. I would further use their unmarked vehicles for surveillance, focusing on criminal activity hot spots and drug activity throughout Clinton County and the 11 contract towns.
I plan to create a community policing program. I will reach out to Sheriff’s Office members to identify interest and programs to engage them with the community. Some of the avenues to explore are bike patrol, foot patrol and internet safety programs.
My 23 years of experience with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office allows me to know the inner workings and needs of the agency. I am ready to hit the ground running from day 1, with no additional training required. This makes me the most qualified candidate to be the next Clinton County Sheriff.