YORKVILLE – The Kendall County Sheriff's Office said during county budget hearings the agency wants to add an independent reviewer position to the fiscal year 2021 budget.
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. He said he believes the county and sheriff's office would benefit from the new position in several ways, including helping with accountability and efficiency within the office and to reduce the probability of litigation related to any reviewed use of force incidents and community complaints.
“A single inspector general would ensure consistency agency wide," Richardson said. "By having an independent observer of certain law enforcement activities, the inspector general would bring the highest level of accountability to our office.”
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.
Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird said the sheriff's office reviews every use of force incident, whether it's out on the road or in the jail, and the office also investigates all citizen complaints. He said the review process goes through to 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.
“This would take those levels out and they would report it right to whatever board [like] the sheriff’s [merit] commission … they could review it and they would provide the recommendation to me and then I would act upon that,” Baird said.
Baird said the proposed $80,000 salary came after sheriff's officials looked at different salaries for similar positions elsewhere and considered what the job is anticipated to entail. However, he said, he is not immediately aware of any nearby police agencies that have a position like what the sheriff's office is proposing.
Sheriff's officials confirmed support staff for the position isn't part of the request.
Baird said there aren't very many use of force incidents that occur within the sheriff's office or related complaints that come in. He said time spent is mostly on review of use of force incidents and very few complaints of use of force come into the sheriff's office.
When sheriff's official review those incidents, Baird said, the following questions are considered: Did the officer in question follow policy? Was there a policy failure? Was there neglect and misconduct on the deputy? Is there a training issue the sheriff's office needs to look at?
“There’s a lot of reasons that those are done. But also, we can identify if we have a deputy that continuously appears to be right on that edge, so … those are early warning factors," Baird said. "If we need to interject with some counseling or training or something like that, or fit for duty tests, those would be some extreme things. So that’s why we do that.”
Richardson said cost analysis shows that the sheriff's office would save about $55,310 in salary and benefits as opposed to those review duties being fulfilled more internally. Baird said he would look further into exactly how many hours are currently spent on those types of reviews and whether the position could start as a part time one and eventually become full time.
Baird said if, upon review, the inspector general were to determine an incident being at least borderline criminal, then the sheriff's office would contact Illinois State Police to open the criminal investigation.
Baird also said this type of oversight and transparency efforts have been nationwide topics lately.
“Obviously, law enforcement is under a lot of scrutiny now,” Baird said.
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.