Sheriff cites ‘quiet’ race, Priest stays ‘positive’
Candidates in the Harrison County Sheriff’s race this year describe their campaigns thus far as quiet or positive, with no mud-slinging.
Incumbent Democratic Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick, who is seeking a second four-year term, said Monday he’s hearing little on the campaign trail about the race.
Deatrick literally trounced his four competitors in the Democratic Spring Primary, carrying each of the 35 precincts and ending up with 52.35 percent of the vote.
In the four-man Republican Spring Primary, Stephen R. Priest finished at the top with 35.5 percent of the vote. This is his first bid for public office.
On the campaign trail thus far, Priest said Monday, ‘I’m hearing positive things for myself.’
If re-elected, Deatrick plans to continue an ‘aggressive training’ program for all officers. ‘They have the opportunity to go through any special training they want,’ he said. As a result, Deatrick said his officers have been trained in crash reconstruction, fraud investigations, scene tech operations and drug enforcement. Two officers, Deatrick said, have training through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI in combating methamphetamine.
Also important, he said, is continuing the use of tasers, or stun guns, when necessary for police use or corrections officers in the jail.
‘It is a valuable thing to have,’ he said. ‘If anything goes bad in a crowd of people, these stun guns work the best. In courtroom proceedings, any time there’s been a shooting, other people get injured. With a stun gun, if you happen to be hit, it’s not life threatening.’
Deatrick said no one has proven that a stun gun has caused any deaths, but he’s been told by a doctor, that if a person happened to have a heart attack at the same time they were stunned, the stun gun might get the blame but shouldn’t.
Priest, too, said training is most important, and in fact, state law mandates continuing education for officers every year.
‘You want continued training and to make sure it correlates with the officer’s duties.”
Priest said he is always in favor of non-lethal force, when possible. ‘But if they are used in a lethal situation, and as a result an officer gets killed, that’s a different matter. It all goes back to training,’ Priest said.
He said he would need to look at the use of stun guns in the correction’s department, where weapons are not usually available so there’s no concern that officers could be overpowered by inmates.
The controversy over possible deaths from stun guns and the safety of officers are both issues to look at, Priest said
Several other issues are in the forefront of this election, and each candidate addressed those issues, without accusations or mud-slinging.
Priest pledges to ensure all sex offenders are on the state’s registry. He would conduct random checks to ensure those offenders are in compliance
He would also cooperate with other agencies at the local, state and federal level to aggressively target the illegal use of manufacturing and dealing drugs in Harrison County.
Priest also plans to hold community meetings periodically, at locations throughout the county. ‘Citizens will have the opportunity to discuss community issues with the sheriff,’ Priest said.
He also would create a Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. Web site. ‘Information for citizens will include the Indiana Sex Offender registry, Harrison County’s most wanted and a citizen’s tip section,’ Priest said.
Deatrick said he would continue the aggressive approach toward ridding Harrison County of methamphetamine. ‘We’ve put a lot of meth dealers out of business; we want to put the rest of them out of business.’
It has taken four years in office to compile names and information undercover officers can use, Deatrick said. ‘That’s worked out really good, but I think it’s most important for us to get better control of the meth,’ Deatrick said. ‘We’ve had classes weekly across the county to inform the public, and it’s made a big difference.’
Deatrick expects lawsuits filed recently in federal court claiming discrimination to wind up in his favor. ‘I won fair and square with the justice division in Washington, D.C.,’ Deatrick said. ‘If the justice department couldn’t find anything wrong that I done, they (the court system) are not going to find anything now.’
Priest declined to comment specifically about the claims, but said, ‘It’s very unfortunate for all involved, including the citizens of this county.
‘The federal court system will run its course,’ Priest said.
Deatrick also doesn’t expect any indictments from a grand jury investigation underway concerning the shooting of the fleeing suspect, Trent Marion of Louisville, on Interstate 64 in January. ‘I expect all the officers to be cleared,’ he said.
Several officers with the sheriff’s department and a Corydon officer fired shots at Marion when his car continued to move in the median. Other officers from Metro Louisville, Floyd County and New Albany also gave chase when Marion fled a grocery parking lot in west Louisville and a dispatch went out that an armed robber was fleeing.
‘He come to us,’ Deatrick said. ‘He broke the law in Louisville, Ky., when they put the dispatch out they said ‘armed robbery,’ and they should have said strong-armed robbery.’
Deatrick said that’s because Marion used force against officers to get away in the store’s parking lot. ‘He pushed two officers away, and he had a six-month old baby he put in the back seat.
‘The baby wasn’t restrained and the officers broke out the window on the other side, took the baby out and he took off.’
To put it mildly, Deatrick said he was angry that the Louisville police hadn’t stopped Marion. ‘They started it and didn’t follow through,’ Deatrick said.
Priest said at the time of the shooting he served as the public information officer for the state police, and since the investigation is continuing, he could not comment.
Priest said he believes all of the volunteers who serve the county are extremely important to the well-being of the citizens, and he would continue the reserve officer force. ‘We need the reserves, absolutely,’ Priest said, adding their presence is especially needed at the multitude of events in Harrison County, such as annual festivals, fair, ball games, etc.
‘I admire people who volunteer for the county, including the firefighters,’ he said.
Priest said he has no intention of turning the sheriff’s department into a state police unit.
‘They are two different departments, totally,’ Priest said. ‘The sheriff is the keeper of the jail, serves the papers, does multiple functions including police work.
‘The state police deal with police work, support services, investigations, basically, all police work.’
G. Michael Deatrick
Political affiliation: Democrat
Spouse: Joyce, 41 years
Children: Two grown sons, a grown daughter, six grandchildren
Occupation: Law enforcement; elected Harrison County Sheriff in 2002, served as police officer since 1995 and prior to that as a volunteer reserve officer; Harrison County Councilman, 1990 to 1994, former farmer.
Education: South Central Junior-Senior High School, 1963; Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, 1995
Proposed chief: Current Chief Gary Gilley
Proposed matron: wife and current matron Joyce Deatrick
To reach Deatrick: Home: 737-2762; sheriff’s office: 738-2195
Stephen R. Priest
Political affiliation: Republican
Spouse: Barbara, 26 years
Children: One grown daughter
Occupation: Law enforcement, Indiana State Police, Sellersburg post, 25 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in police administration with minor in fire prevention and control, Eastern Kentucky University at Richmond, Ky., 1980; ISP Recruit School, Plainfield, 1980; FBI National Academy, Quantico, Va., 1995
Proposed chief: Jim Kendall, currently chief of the Corydon Marshal’s Office
Proposed matron: None selected but Priest said it would not be his wife
To reach Priest: 738-1014