Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Here is the race I am following locally...and since I am supporting Lupe Valdez. Support your local SHEriff in the left column!

Reforms, experience focus of Dallas County Sheriff's debate
10:07 PM CDT on Tuesday, October 7, 2008
By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said her record of reforming her department makes her deserving of re-election Tuesday night while her Republican opponent, Lowell Cannaday, said his long record of experienced leadership makes him the better choice for the job of top cop.

The two candidates faced off for the third time this year in a debate held at the Preston Hollow Elementary School auditorium in Dallas, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Sheriff Valdez, 60, focused on her agency's law enforcement operations, saying she’s expanded highway patrols and drunken driving enforcement while also bringing financial accountability to the department with better contracts and responsible budget cutting.

She also said she’s ended overcrowding and understaffing at the jail and brought maintenance and sanitation up to state standards. The jails are currently staffed properly, but they have not been complaint with state standards since 2003. Another inspection is due early next year.

Mr. Cannaday, 71, the former Irving police chief, said he has experience managing multi-million dollar budgets and has put criminals in jail. “I know how to do this job,” he said.
Mr. Cannaday said morale in the department is low. He said the fact that all local police labor groups have endorsed him is evidence. He said he has a record of creating trust and fairness and making employees feel appreciated, which he said will increase morale.

Sheriff Valdez disagreed that morale is low and said the association leadership doesn’t represent the feelings of all members. She said she wouldn’t have been able to make so many changes without the help of her employees. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get things done,” she said.

She said she has increased the number of minority supervisors with a fairer promotion system. And she announced a new initiative during the debate, saying her department will create part-time positions for college students who can get training during the summer.

For the first time, the candidates were allowed to ask each other a question.

Sheriff Valdez questioned Mr. Cannaday about what she said was a rise in thefts, robberies and assaults in Irving during his 10-year tenure as police chief. Mr. Cannaday said there was an overall reduction in violent crimes while he was chief.

He asked the sheriff to explain why so many local police associations, including sheriff’s associations, endorsed him. Sheriff Valdez said there will always be people who resist change and want to continue doing things the “same old way.”

Mr. Cannaday said he would work better with county commissioners given his “record of coalition building.”

Sheriff Valdez said she has a good working relationship with the commissioners, who she said have granted many of her requests during the last two years. Commissioners have during that time approved more funding for the jails — in part because of a lawsuit the federal government filed against the county to enforce required improvements.

The candidates sparred over a recent consolidation of the sheriff’s patrol and highway divisions to save money. Mr. Cannaday said it will mean fewer proactive patrols in unincorporated areas while Sheriff Valdez disputed that, saying her deputies will be expected to patrol neighborhoods as well as highways and respond to wrecks.

Sheriff Valdez defended her record on DWI enforcement, saying it’s strong, while Mr. Cannaday said she wasn’t using a converted semi-trailer enough for enforcement operations.

When asked about her management style, Sheriff Valdez said she occasionally drops by the jails to see the situation for herself while also delegating most jail oversight to her commanders.
“You delegate but verify,” she said.

Mr. Cannaday said he believes in management by “walking around” and that his door is always open. “It’s intellectually lazy to hide behind the chain of command,” he said.

In her closing statement, Sheriff Valdez said the department has come a long way since 2004. The jail is now staffed properly while highways are safer due to expanded patrols, she said.

Mr. Cannaday said he has a proven record of building and maintaining relationships. He said the job of sheriff is “not meant to be run by amateurs” and that it’s not an “entry level position.” He challenged the audience members, who barely filled about a third of the seats (in the local middle school auditorium) , to ask their local police officer what they think.

The next sheriff’s debate will be Wednesday morning at the Hilton Garden Inn in Duncanville, 800 N. Main St., at 11:30 a.m. It is sponsored by the Duncanville Chamber of Commerce.

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