YORKVILLE – Multiple Kendall County Board members expressed support for the sheriff taking initiative in requesting a new inspector general position to be added to the office's staff for more oversight on use of force incidents and police-related citizen complaints.
However, they shared some cost-related concerns about having the position as presented approved for the fiscal year 2021 budget coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kendall County Undersheriff Bobby Richardson said during a Sept. 16 budget presentation hearing that the non-exempt full time inspector general position for the entire sheriff’s office would have a projected salary of about $80,000. Richardson said the position would be outside of the patrol and corrections chain of command and would only report to the sheriff, human relations manager and the sheriff’s merit commission.
Sheriff's officials said the position would be outside of the patrol and corrections chain of command and would only report to the sheriff, human relations manager and the sheriff’s merit commission. They said the sheriff's office reviews every use of force incident, whether it's out on the road or in the jail, and all citizen complaints, with the review process going through the first line supervisor, then to the commander and then to the undersheriff, sheriff or chief deputy, depending on the division the incident or complaint came out of.
County Board member Audra Hendrix said she has mentioned to Baird before that she appreciates the quality of officers’ training at the sheriff's office and that the county doesn't "have a lot of incidents that make the papers, so to speak.” She said she was not at all surprised to hear the sheriff wanted to propose the new position.
“I think that’s a very good idea,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix said her only concern was that she wanted the reassurance that other community groups could somehow be involved in these reviews. Baird said he used the sheriff's merit commission as an example and was hesitant about involving more groups in the interest of time with these incident reviews – however, he said, he would be open to any group being the review entity instead, whether it’s sheriff’s merit commission or another panel created that includes other members of the community.
“So as long as they were educated in that, with case law and use of force, it doesn’t matter to me who reviews it,” Baird said.
County Board member Scott Gengler said he was curious about whether the inspector general position could be a part time one to start – which, Baird said, he could look into that further.
Regardless, Gengler said, he really likes the idea of the sheriff's office having an inspector general.
“Because I think we’re getting ahead of game, if you will, so to speak,” Gengler said.
County Board Vice-Chairwoman Amy Cesich said she believes the members on the merit commission, which are appointed by the County Board, are diverse and that there's a political party diversity requirement there as well. She said she also likes the idea of the inspector general since these are changing times in police accountability and oversight is always good.
However, Cesich said, her hesitation in pursuing it is the county already coming out of a bizarre year financially speaking with the COVID-19 pandemic. When looking at these types of positions, she said, the county is looking at benefits costs as well as pay.
“Not that we have to wait until there’s just so many complaints or so many reviews of force and things like that," Cesich said. "But is this the appropriate time? When we haven’t had a lot of it?”
Not only would Cesich want the county to make sure this is the right year for the budget reasons, she said, but she also would want to see where this ranks in the sheriff’s priorities for fiscal year 2021 as well.
Cesich said she really likes that the sheriff's thinking ahead in wanting to have this type of oversight be established before it's too late from an accountability standpoint for the sheriff's office. She said the country's seen a lot of civil unrest and a lot of proposed policy changes coming at all levels for police.
“I like that you guys are thinking about this and if we can make it happen, great," Cesich said. "But let’s make sure we have the numbers that justify it and warrant it.”
The county's fiscal year runs from December to November.
Sheriff's officials were not immediately available for additional comment regarding next steps for the request.
The next Kendall County Board Committee of the Whole meeting, which is expected to include more budget discussions, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 at the Kendall County Historic Courthouse, 109 W. Ridge St.