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Walt Kuykendall
Sedgwick County Sheriff
2008-10-01 15:56:00
Issues in the race for Sheriff
Answer: When I filed for the office of Sedgwick County Sheriff in February 2008, my action was taken out of a strong desire to lead a great law enforcement organization and compassion for its employees. The request was made to me from the Sheriff’s employees. I was told by law enforcement friends, citizens and community leaders that the leadership of the Sheriff’s Department was not taking care of and supporting the employees. The picture described by the employees, of the conditions of the Sheriff’s Department, was poor regarding their safety in their different work environments, the lack of support, and interaction by leadership. Sheriff Steed filed for the office of Sheriff after I had filed. Several weeks later, he dropped out of the campaign. This took place in March 2008 after the internal release of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office Environmental Assessment Survey involving 435 employees (civilian, detention and law enforcement personnel). The survey was prompted by several very negative, employee exit surveys that were received by HR. Information received from internal sources showed how poorly the Sheriff’s Department was being lead and managed. The Sheriff did not release the survey during the primary because of its potential to sway the voter not to vote for the 2 ½ year, Under-Sheriff. During the week of September 8th, I requested and received a copy of the survey through the open records act. It was also released to the news media. The Environmental Assessment Survey fills in the picture of the poor leadership and poor management of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department and Detention Facility. Some of the general themes were: administration is out of touch (80% negative); inconsistent supervision (67% negative); poor pay and benefits (82% negative); lack of clarity and unity of mission (41% negative); staffing at critical levels (81% negative); equipment shortages (54% negative); and unclear promotional process (69% negative), to name a few topics. Again, the 102-page assessment survey is available to all parties through the open records act. After the employees took the survey, they were eager to take the next step towards positive change, but they were concerned it would not happen under the present leadership. I am the type of leader who listens and interacts well with employees. Leadership is all about building and maintaining good working relationships, whether it be with employees, the commissioners, other law enforcement personnel, and/or citizens that are served. The Sheriff Department’s mission must be to protect and preserve the safety and welfare of all people in our county. It’s a necessity to maintain the maximum level of honesty, equality and concern at all times. Crime and violence are out of control in Sedgwick County. We have too many shootings, knifings, “club and gang brutality” resulting in innocent people being injured and murdered. Crimes committed across law enforcement boundaries such as metal thefts, burglaries, rapes, robberies, sexual predator crimes, identity thefts and other computer type crimes are on the increase. I’ve recommended the creation of a multi-agency law enforcement crime task force that would come together with the goal of combating this increase in crime. There must be an assertive effort on the part of all Sedgwick County personnel to partner with our community in attacking the increase in crime. As Sheriff, I would lead the way to finding solutions to the overcrowding and detention expenditures by working with County and City Leaders, the District Attorney, the Judicial Governing body and area Law Enforcement – and our citizens. I am not in favor of a maximum security facility for $54 million, but I would favor a minimum security facility at half the cost, housing twice the inmate population, with a goal of a coordinated offenders re-entry program. We must be better stewards of our taxpayer’s dollars. One way is to offer career and retention incentives to the detention deputies to cut the personnel turnover rate currently running at 22%. It is imperative that the Sheriff provide leadership by including all personnel within the Department. My opponent, the Under-Sheriff for the last 2 ½ years, has had the time to fix these grave concerns within the Sheriff’s Office. He has not done so. He is part of the problem. I have fixed problems like this before and I can and will fix them again. Through trusted leadership and proven history, I can make it happen. As your nominated candidate of Sheriff, we can make it happen together. The citizen safety will always be our first priority.
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