The Republican and Democratic candidates for the job of Salt Lake County sheriff know each other well.
One has been the sheriff for the past eight years. The other was one of his deputies and was often recognized by the current administration for his good work.Republican Aaron Kennard wants a third term as the top man in Salt Lake County law enforcement. Democratic challenger Scott Miller, now retired after 20 years as a deputy, thinks it is time for Kennard to retire.
Interestingly, both men chose law enforcement during the 1970s at the urging of others who saw in these men the qualities a good officer needs.
Friends implored Miller to consider the career. Kennard followed in the footsteps of a brother-in-law. Both graduated from the Peace Officers Standards and Training academy and began their careers as officers for Salt Lake City.
Kennard worked graveyard shifts on patrol for the city, while he went to college, acquiring a bachelor's degree at the University of Utah and then a master's at Brigham Young University.
From there he's gone on to further his law enforcement education at the FBI's National Academy. He now teaches law enforcement as an adjunct professor at Weber State and Salt Lake Community College. He sits on a number of national law enforcement boards and committees.
Miller, a laborer at the time he sought out police work, also graduated from the U., before pinning on a badge. Among other awards, his work has earned him medals of merit from the Utah State Department of Corrections, for apprehending a armed parole fugitive, and a medal of distinction from the sheriff's office after wrestling a gun away from a suicidal suspect.
Both candidates agree that some of the most important issues facing the county in the coming years are those of violent crime, gang crime, juvenile crime and a growing drug problem - in particular methamphetamine use.
They differ in how they view the solutions.
Miller would focus on increasing volunteer community neighborhood and business "watch" programs and expand the reserve corps through citizen volunteers to put more watchful eyes on the streets. He also proposes giving deputies power to make more street-level decisions without needing a nod from higher-ups.
He's also a strong advocate of "Operation Safe Neighborhood," which helps officers get low-interest housing loans to move into troubled neighborhoods, and the "Weed and Seed" program, which encourages crime reduction through community rede-vel-op-ment.
Kennard takes a slightly different approach, advocating additional, specialized training for deputies to make them more effective in fighting crime.
With the methamphetamine problems, for example, he advocates training several deputies in dismantling and cleaning up meth labs.
He hangs his campaign hat firmly on his record of the past eight years and the growth and change in the sheriff's office.
"In the last eight years, I have done everything possible to professionalize the office," he said. "We have increased training, I've gotten the officers new weapons, implemented the car-per-deputy program. . . . When I came in we didn't have a gang unit. There was no domestic violence or narcotics unit. DARE wasn't a program. We have all of these things now."
Kennard would continue to support those programs and enhance them where possible if re-elected.
What many might not know, however, is that in the background of this campaign is a lawsuit. In a federal suit filed in January, Miller is suing Kennard and undersheriff James E. Bellin, alleging conspiracy to obstruct justice and intimidation of a witness and claiming his civil rights were violated.
The suit comes out of a 1994 lawsuit involving Greg Mid-dle-kauff of Middlekauff Lincoln Mercury. Middlekauff was sued when two motorists were injured in a collision with a vehicle stolen from the dealership. Evidence showed that the dealership left the keys in the vehicle.
Middlekauff eventually lost the suit.
Miller was hired as an expert witness in the case and provided testimony against Middlekauff. Within days of providing initial testimony to lawyers, Miller was transferred from the sheriff's office Special Operations Unit to the communications division.
In his suit against Kennard, he claims the transfer was "tantamount to a demotion," designed to intimidate him and prevent him from testifying in court. He claims this transfer happened because Kennard and Middlekauff are friends and the latter donated $500 to the sheriff's election campaign.
Kennard has called the lawsuit "baseless" and denies the transfer was at all related to the Middlekauff suit but declines any further comment because the suit has yet to be adjudicated. The suit is currently in the discovery phase.
Miller also offers only limited comment.
"I believe the sheriff has abused his powers. Not only in my case but in others," he said. "And I think he will continue to abuse his powers in the form of punitive transfers."
He is adamant that a sheriff should do everything possible to keep "politics out of policing." That can be done, he said, by using the procedures established in state law for job performance review and promotion procedures he claims Kennard's administration doesn't follow.
S.L. County sheriff
Why should voters choose you over your opponents?
SCOTT MILLER (D): Because I have firsthand knowledge of the crime problems in Salt Lake County. I have a bond with the officers who provide day to day services and have developed their trust. And I have not been influenced by special interests, so I can objectively evaluate every program in the sheriff's office.
AARON KENNARD (R): I think first my qualifications. There is no comparison. I have prepared myself for the last 20 years to do this job. In the last eight years, I have professionalized the office - increasing training, giving the officers new weapons and the car-per-deputy program, improving communications with other agencies and implementing other new programs like the Gang Unit. I have kept every promise I've made.
What are the top three crime issues facing the county in the next four years?
S.M.: My top concern is repeat violent offenders who are still loose on the streets of Salt Lake County because of lack of foresight in providing adequate jail space. Second is the victimization of our children at school and at play. Third is the 12-minute response time the county currently has to life-threatening situations and the two- to three-hour response to routine calls.
A.K.: I think a major concern is violent crime - particularly juvenile crime and gang crime. My second concern is the increasing infestation of drugs. The third is a tie between domestic violence and juvenile crime prevention.
What role do you see the county playing in the 2002 Winter Olympics?
S.M.: Aside from providing direct security at any county venue, I think we must limit ourselves to a supporting role to those agencies with venues in their jurisdictions.
A.K.: The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office is one of the lead agencies in the planning. My deputies sit on 16 of the 24 planning committees, and I have a captain assigned full-time to Olympic planning.
Do we need a metropolitan police and fire system for the valley?
S.M.: Metropolized policing has a number of advantages, especially in communication and coordination. But I don't believe the climate exists currently in county or local governments to relinquish any turf and bring that to fruition.
A.K.: Eight years ago, I ran on the premise that we should have a metro police department. I pushed it for some six years, but it fell on deaf ears. Two years ago, the area police chiefs told me we don't want it. We agree, however, that there are many areas where shared services should be looked at.
What might you propose to manage our continuing jail space problem?
S.M.: The new jail will take care of some of those problems. However, I believe we have to also look at alternatives to incarceration.
A.K.: I am not going to allow the new jail to be full as soon as it opens its doors. I think we can manage it in a way to serve everybody in the county and still have some room for growth, while keeping the most serious offenders behind bars. I also think we need to continue to look at alternatives to incarceration.
Kennard's question for Miller: Requirements for police chiefs around the country include a minimum of a bachelor's degree, at least five years at the captain level or above and graduation from the FBI National Academy or equivalent. Given the fact that you have very little higher education, no degree and no upper level police executive training and no police administration experience, what qualifies you to lead one of Utah's largest law enforcement agencies?
S.M.: I meet all of the qualifications for sheriff as determined by the Utah State Legislature.
Miller's question for Kennard: How do you propose reducing the 12-minute response time to life-threatening calls and the several hour response times to routine calls?
A.K.: The information about response times is flawed. Within the term "life-threatening" our response time is less than nine minutes - which is within 30 seconds of Salt Lake City's response time and better than most agencies around the valley. Relative to non-emergency calls, we have made every effort to reduce those times with more deputies, more dispatchers and telephone report takers.
Kennard's question for Miller: If elected, what are your ideas regarding the new communication system, its 800 megahertz capability, its potential for providing communication between agencies and its compatibility with Salt Lake City, UCAN as well as other agencies?
S.M.: While it is cutting edge, that system is not currently compatible with other agencies in the Salt Lake Valley and has in truth separated the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office from its ability to interact with other agencies in terms of providing support.
Miller's question for Kennard: How do you propose to implement community policing principles throughout the sheriff's office, not just on its current limited basis?
A.K.: Anyone who considers community policing efforts to be limited is misinformed. Our community policing strategy starts with our mission statement and corporate values. We have built many strong partnerships with neighborhoods, businesses, other government agencies and schools. We have opened numerous neighborhood mini-stations around the county and have also started writing a strategy for community based corrections. In addition, we have a very functional Citizen's Advisory Board program at the office level and in our patrol divisions.