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BLOOMINGTON - Sheriff candidates sparred over management, use of resources and combating cybercrime Wednesday night in one of the first head-to-head appearances in their campaigns.

The 6 p.m. debate between Lt. Mike Emery and Lt. Mike Essig was broadcast live on radio station WJBC from the Doubletree Bloomington hotel, 10 Brickyard Drive.

When asked about his management style, Essig said he won't micromanage current shift commanders.

"We have confidence, we spend a lot of money training them and we allow them to go out and do their job," Essig said. "And when I become sheriff, I will make sure everybody's accountable for what they do, from the very rookie deputies to the most senior lieutenant."

Emery stressed the importance of the department chain of command and policies, and stated early in the debate he has made difficult decisions in the department and said regulation is necessary to avoid liability.

"If people are calling me a disciplinarian, it's for the purpose of running a police department that is regulated so that we all know in law enforcement how we are going to conduct ourselves on a professional, basis daily," Emery said.

Essig suggested removing sergeants from desk duties at night and replacing them with civilians, putting experienced officers on the street.

"We have our best, most trained personnel sitting at a desk, answering a phone, taking a police report over the phone, pushing a button," Essig said.

But Emery said they are needed to secure the McLean County Law and Justice Center.

"The first line of defense to protect that building - the jail and late court - is the sergeant or the officer on a desk," Emery said. "You can't just lock the door at 4:30 and go home and leave a civilian in the lobby."

Essig said traffic into the office was not significant in evenings, but Emery disagreed and said he was once attacked with a knife when performing such duties.

Both candidates indicated jail-alternative programs could reduce the number of inmates.

And Emery said the county has spent more than $365,000 housing prisoners in other counties since 2001, which could have been used to implement such programs.

"It certainly could have started a drug court for us, it may have been even a start to our electronic monitoring program," Emery said.

Essig said much of that money was spent following an explosion and fire at the jail in 2003, but Emery said the county spent most under normal conditions. Essig said the jail population is kept below capacity for safety, and social programs could reduce recidivism.

"We need to do it by creating partnerships with social agencies, faith-based agencies," Essig said.

Essig said the sheriff's office's current adopt-a-town program makes sure deputies communicate with surrounding towns, and people will know who he and his deputies are if he is sheriff. Emery said the sheriff's office should work with local departments, sharing responsibilities and resources.

Emery said he would concentrate resources on computer crimes, involving both identity theft and online stalking by sexual predators. He said the department has fallen behind in such training.

Essig said other property and domestic violence crimes are far more common, but detectives should be trained to handle electronic crimes and parents should watch what their children are doing online.


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