Saginaw County Sheriff\'s Race: Candidates Take Issue Over What They Should Wear and Drive

Posted In: Politics, Local, Candidates, Interviews,   From Issue 665   By: Mike Thompson

31st July, 2008     0

One big difference between candidates for Saginaw County Sheriff, in the Democratic primary on August 5th is what they would wear to work.           

Incumbent Charles Brown(left) of Frankenmuth, Sheriff since 1998, dons a suit and tie about half the time. So do most of his top aides. Challenger Bill Federspiel(below) of Saginaw is a Saginaw Township police officer since 1996 whom says he and his top people would always wear uniforms, except for undercover work.

A second difference is what they would drive to work. Brown and at least 14 members of his department have unmarked cars. Federspiel says he would use the oldest marked car in the fleet, and that again his management team would do likewise. Brown counters that marked cars are more expensive to deploy and sometimes are more effective, a statement that Federspiel questions.

Yet a third difference involves where some of the deputies would report to work. The Sheriff's Department has substations in Merrill, Chesaning, Birch Run, Kochville Township and Bloomfield Township. Brown asks deputies to report to the courthouse for roll call, and then travel to the substations. Federspiel says they should go straight to the substations and join an online roll call.

Federspiel has ripped Brown over "naked detention" lawsuits filed by inmates who were stripped of clothing. Brown says removal of clothing was intended mainly to protect inmates from suicidal tendencies, but that he ended the practice more than seven years ago when it came to his attention. He adds that the cost of lawsuits is paid by the County Risk Management Fund, not the Sheriff's Department budget.

Saginaw County government overall has received loads of publicity for perceived budget problems, but the $46 million general fund has a $17 million rainy day account. Auditors normally recommend a minimum hedge of 10 percent, which in this case would be $4.6 million. Brown recommends spending some of the surplus to forestall further cutbacks, while Federspiel does not.

Brown points to his track record and experience, asserting that the big picture should not be blotted out by issues that Federspiel raises. He is 62 years old with 39 years in law enforcement, the past 28 in Saginaw County. He served 26 years with the state police. Federspiel is 40 years old with 21 years in police work, the past 12 in Saginaw Township.

Federspiel points to his education. He is nine credits shy of a master's degree in public administration at Central Michigan University. Brown achieved an associate's degree from North Central Michigan College, attended Northern Michigan
University, and graduated from the National Sheriff institute.

Brown is vice president of the Michigan Sheriffs Association, chairman of Delta College's Criminal Justice and Corrections Advisory Committee, the Governor's Community Corrections Authority Board, and a leader of the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Council. Federspiel served for two years on the Saginaw City Council and has been a leader of the Saginaw Township patrol officers' union.

Terry Jungel, director of the Michigan Sheriffs Association, says Brown follows common statewide practice in working in a suit and tie, and in driving an unmarked vehicle.

The August 5th winner will face Republican Kevin Campbell of St. Charles, a police officer, in the November general election.

Following are responses from Brown and Federspiel to a Review Magazine survey:

Review: Please outline your main goals and how you would accomplish them.

Brown:
It is with great pride that I have served the citizens of Saginaw County as Sheriff for the past 10 years.  During the time I have been Sheriff, I have been committed to making this agency one of the best in the state.

My main goals for the next four years include increasing public safety within Saginaw County, as economic growth will not occur if families and business owners do not feel safe.

As resources dwindle, funding will be one of our greatest challenges. I have worked diligently to bring funding into Saginaw County by renting jail space to the federal government; returning $1.4 million to the general fund.  Also, our grant writer has helped maintain positions and equipment by receiving over $13 million dollars in assorted funds. We have also been able to keep deputies on by using over $1 million in forfeiture funds.

As we move into the next four years, it is my goal to work with the State Department of Corrections in an attempt to further coordinate county jails and state lockups.  Money that would be saved in state corrections could then be used for local law enforcement.

 Federspiel: My first goal is going to be implementing good policies. This is not necessarily reinvesting the wheel. This is referring to the poor policies under the current administration, such as payment of taxpayer money for the naked detention lawsuits. I would adopt the policies of the U.S. Department of Justice and other large agencies.

My second goal is to be fiscally responsible. I will do away with personal use of unmarked county vehicles, such as Blazers and Jeeps, for all Sheriff's Department employees and myself. As sheriff, I will drive the oldest fully marked car and my undersheriff will drive the next oldest fully marked car. I will not be handling calls and doing patrol work, but I will lead by example, and if I should be en route to an appointment and a crime is in progress, I will be fully ready to assist.

My third goal is being a good leader, one who is in touch with both road patrol officers and corrections officers. We need to return transparency in government to the Sheriff's Department. My ultimate goal is to regain the trust of the public, and the trust of the men and women who work for the Sheriff's Office.

Review: Voters in 2006 turned down a countywide 1.6-mill "No Boundaries" law enforcement tax. Sheriff Brown was in favor, Officer Federspiel was not. This took place after Saginaw city voters approved 6 mills for police and fire. Does the Sheriff's Department need more deputies? If so, how would you accomplish this?

Federspiel: I would love to have more deputies on the road. Any administrator would like more deputies, but not at an increased cost to the public. I believe that through wise restructuring decisions, there are enough deputies right now to provide a quality service to the people of Saginaw. My bottom line is that we need to do more with less in bad economic times. We will make it work.

Brown: We have experienced the loss of several law enforcement personnel, mostly among first responder road patrol deputies. To keep deputies on the street we have reduced our detective bureau, developed grants, used forfeiture funds and added contracts such as the motor carrier position.  The Sheriff's Department does need more staff, but this can only be accomplished by community leaders working together to develop a plan.  Now is not the time to reduce resources if we want economic growth.

Review: Would you propose changes in arrest policies and prosecution of criminal suspects?

Brown:
As Sheriff, I have implemented changes as resources decline, including special equipment for personnel. Training is always a priority, but to prevent and solve crimes we must have deputies and detectives on the street. We need to look for more state and federal funding to assist local funding. This could be done if we could reduce state prison funding and continue working on federal grants to put deputies in schools and on the streets.

Federspiel: We need good solid training. If a department has good training, relying on common cause and laws of this land, the deputies and corrections officers will make the right decisions. We will not have problems such as the naked detention lawsuits.

Review: Please express your feelings on alternatives to incarceration.

Federspiel: In Cape Coral, Florida, I was part of a group that formulated a plan to work with the juvenile justice system. We were able to place juveniles who committed nonviolent crimes under house arrest. I had a caseload when I was a community officer. We could check on them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at any time. If they were not present, then they would face incarceration. We could do the same in Saginaw. I will do everything in my power to come up with new ideas and new ways to look at incarceration issues.

Brown: With the prosecutor and the judges, I have developed or added to programs such as day parole, tether, and day reporting.  These programs keep people at their jobs and supporting their families while going through the court system. We have worked to add programs for GED classes, anger management and substance. Inmates also have access to religious programs.  We also train inmates to work in restaurants and in lawn care. Our work crews have assisted local government agencies, churches and other organizations such as the County Fair.

Review: Do you believe in mandatory minimum sentences?

Brown:
If there is no certainty to the sentence of an inmate to prison, the county jail would become the location where violent criminals would be sent.  It is important that we continue to remove the violent offender and repeat offender from the streets of our community and send them to prison. When the criminal element continues to commit crimes, we continue to have additional victims. Currently we are providing local and state programs in an attempt to place inmates back on the streets as productive citizens.

Federspiel: There needs to be an overhaul in the entire system. Criminals know if a penalty is 6 months to a year, they will get probation 9 times out of 10.  I believe in minimums only if we are going to abide by those sentences. For instance, if you commit robbery and you are supposed to serve 1 year, then you should serve that time. I find it alarming that many felons are committing multiple felonies before they serve at any time at all.  At the same time, I believe in giving judges discretion. We do need standards, but we also need judges to make decisions.

Review: So far over the past 30 years taxpayers have spent over $1 trillion on the War on Drugs and street drugs today are cheaper than ever. Gov. Granholm proposed eliminating 'mandatory minimums' last year because they cost state taxpayers $31,000 per year per inmate for room and board in state prisons. But 70 to 90 percent of the caseloads in our courts center around policies set by Drug Prohibition. Has the War on Drugs been effective?

Federspiel:
We are not winning the War on Drugs at all. It's all about supply and demand. If we believe that drugs are bad for society, then we need to reduce the demand through education. I don't know if DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was as effective as it could have been. The responsibility lies first with parents, and then law enforcement. We need to explore other options. I'm willing to sit with judges, prosecutors and civic groups to try to come up with a solution.

Brown: We must continue the War on Drugs.  As Sheriff for the past 10 years, I have seen how drugs have victimized the citizens of Saginaw County. As we all know, burglaries and robberies and other crimes can be tied directly to drugs. We have seen an increase in guns being stolen and used in connection with drug trafficking. We also need to return to the schools to continue training our youth as to the hazards of drug use and possession, as well as the issues with gang violence.

Review: Upon entering the courthouse, two deputies man the metal detector. Do you believe two deputies are necessary for this?

 Federspiel: I believe two officers at the counter are necessary, but to use road patrol deputies is just crazy. The Sheriff could be using jail officers to guard the courthouse, and to guard prisoners at the hospitals as well. He should be working with the courts to share that cost. Corrections officers who work in the jail can be trained to transport as well. We are wasting resources. There is a breakdown between understanding whose job it is to guard the prisoners, and whose job is to be on road patrol.

Brown: My opponent obviously does not understand the role of corrections and the role of law enforcement. The job of guarding the courthouse is a job of law enforcement. Corrections officers have no firearms and no arrest powers. Some of our most dangerous and violent people to deal with are the people who enter the courthouse, whether they are connected with a criminal case or on some occasions, a divorce case.
This is why we use certified deputies for this important task.

Review: Some in the community are concerned that the road patrol includes not a single African American deputy. Could you address this issue?

 Federspiel: I have heard Sheriff Brown say he's looked and can't find any minorities. I disagree. I know of a perfect candidate, an African American male who works inside the jail. I had a conversation with this young man. He hasn't been given an opportunity. To say that there are no candidates, I find that hard to believe. There are qualified people right here in this county. I believe we can show a Sheriff's Department that reflects the community, and it is very important to do so.

 Brown: First of all, anyone in law enforcement knows how difficult it is to recruit minority candidates. My opponent's statement is not true. Nobody in the jail has indicated to me that they would be interested in the road patrol. (Federspiel) fails to understand that several years ago, our labor contracts were split. The road patrol deputies work under one contract, and the corrections officers work under another. They are certified in different ways.

Review: What amount is your fund-raising goal for the primary election, and is fund-raising overemphasized?

Brown:
My goal is to win the election. The citizens of Saginaw County should look at the candidates' records and what they have done to make the county safer.
Fund-raising should not be what puts a candidate in office.

Federspiel: I started with a goal of $15,000. Now it looks like I will come in at around $30,000 for the primary. I do believe that fund-raising is overemphasized, especially at the national level where millions of dollars spent when people are starving, are poor, and can't pay their utility bills. . That's why I had a $10 fund-raiser with Koegel's hot dogs, Jack's homemade brats, beans and chips. I want everyone to be able to afford my fund-raisers.

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