The race for Saginaw County Sheriff is certainly one of the most hotly contested races in the upcoming August 2nd primary. The position of County Sheriff is a constitutionally mandated position that calls for a duly elected Sheriff in elected by the people in each county of the state; and currently Michigan has 83 counties and therefore 83 sheriffs; 68 below the Mackinac Bridge and 15 in the U.P.
This has been a constitutional mandate since 1828, whereas the State Police did not exist until 1917. In Saginaw County the job of Sheriff involves the responsibility of servicing 200,000 people spread throughout 810 square miles in 27 townships, 3 cities, and 5 villages. Primary duties of the office include responding to calls from citizens, maintaining a jail system, protecting the courts, and serving civil papers, along with numerous ancillary duties.
Currently the department has 135 full-time employees in addition to non-sworn civilian personnel, so apart from being skilled with budgetary & fiscal issues, the Sheriff must obviously possess solid and detail-oriented management skills.
Candidates running for the office in the August primary consist of incumbent Sheriff William Federspiel and challengers William Gutzwiller, Robert Karl and Brian Booker. In light of the numerous duties, responsibilities, and independence of this constitutionally mandated office, The Review is proud to present this in-depth candidate forum that we hope will appraise you of each candidate’s qualifications along with their vision for the department as we move forward into the future.
Review: Please tell us your professional background & experience and how that background & experience distinguishes you from your opponents?
Federspiel: My professional background includes working as the Sheriff of Saginaw County since January, 2009. I also have governmental budget experience from my time spent as a City Councilman with the City of Saginaw (2005-2008). I was a detective and police officer with the Saginaw Township Police Department from December 1996 - 2008, and I was a community police officer/Master Corporal with the Cape Coral, Florida Police Department from September 1987 - November 1996. I earned my Masters Degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University; my Bachelors Degree in Community Development from Central Michigan University; my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Technology from Edison Community College in Fort Myers, Florida; and I am pursuing a second Masters Degree in English and Literature from the University of Michigan.
My Graduate degree and Undergraduate degree have increased my knowledge base to think more strategically, and my time spent working with public sector budgets on the City Council, and as the Sheriff of Saginaw County, provide a depth of fiscal knowledge as well as a great understanding of how to successfully operate within the confines of a political framework. Having both a Graduate and Undergraduate Degree from CMU, as well as working on a second Graduate Degree, distinguishes me from my opponents because I have shown a commitment to a life of ongoing, continuing education.
I also have the distinction of being the incumbent Sheriff for the past eight years with excellent working relationships with local Judges, the media, and citizens. I have been endorsed by County Commissioners Mike Hanley, Susan McInerney, Katie Albosta-Kelly, Chuck Stack, Robert "Moe" Woods, Carl Ruth, Cheryl Hadsall, Jim Theisen, and Kirk Kilpatrick. I also have the endorsement of Prosecutor John McColgan, Public Works Commissioner Brian Wendling, Register of Deeds Mildred Dodak, and Treasurer Tim Novak. These public endorsements illustrate the strong relationships that I have forged with other public servants who are elected by the citizens of Saginaw County. Through these relationships I have been better able to serve the community at large.
Gutzwiller: I have over 32 years of law enforcement/corrections experience, and I am the only candidate, including the current incumbent, who has run and managed a county jail, which is the mandated role of a County Sheriff. I am the only candidate who has personally served in every law enforcement capacity in the Saginaw County Sheriff Department.
I graduated from the Northeastern Police Academy at Delta College in 1987. I am a 2001 Graduate of the FBI National Academy, 206th session. I am the only candidate who has graduated from the FBI National Academy, which is the premier recognized training for Jail and Law Enforcement Administration. In November 2010, I graduated from the United States Secret Service Dignitary Protection School, and I successfully completed several other FBI classes.
I have been the recipient of many awards during my years of service. The complete details of my full career are available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-gutzwiller-1030b081.
Karl: For nearly 35 years in law enforcement which includes Houston Police Department, Buena Vista Police Department, Saginaw Township Police Department, and Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office. I have held numerous positions of leadership and responsibilities. I was the training officer for the Saginaw Township Police Department. I was responsible for not only mental, physical, and tactical training of the entire Saginaw Township Police Department. I was also responsible for planning and research of new technologies and Beta testing and evaluation for cost effectiveness. I was also a 13-year veteran of the Saginaw Emergency Service Team (SWAT). I held various positions including Weapons and Tactical Trainer, Grenadier, Sniper, Lead Entry. I was also the Undersheriff for 6 years at the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office. My responsibilities included running the entire day to day operations for the 135 full time and 90 support personal through the 4 separate divisions (Road Patrol, Jail, Emergency Operations Center, and Administration) through my division commanders. I was also responsible for putting together the yearly Sheriff’s Budget for the Sheriff, through the Budget process and the Sheriff’s Office Accountant.
In my nearly 35 years in Law Enforcement I have excelled in every aspect assigned to me. I have had a very distinguished career as a Patrolman, Trainer, Planning and Researcher, Beta Tester, Commander, Budgetary, SWAT. I have received numerous awards and decorations including Life Saving, Courageous Service, Distinguished Service, Meritorious Service, and Officer of the year, just to name a few. My greatest accomplishment is as your PUBLIC SERVANT.
Booker: I am the only candidate of the four who actually was a Chief of Police prior to running for Sheriff. I served 19 years in the City of Saginaw and six months prior to retiring, served as the Acting Chief & Deputy Chief at the same time. I am the only candidate who as a Chief has rural (BC, City of Saginaw) and urban (City of Saginaw) law enforcement experience. This distinguishes me from my opponents. Another fact that makes me different is I am the only candidate that led a police department (BV) as its Chief of Police and along with the staff and officers transformed it into a respectable professional organization. In my last three years in BC serious crime decreased by 31%. Department morale and community involvement had improved dramatically. I have proven leadership qualities.
Review: What are the top 4 qualities, skills & abilities that you feel it important for a Sheriff to possess?
Gutzwiller: Integrity and Professionalism - I will oversee the County Jail and law enforcement division with the integrity and professionalism I have displayed over my 32 years of law enforcement in Saginaw County. I believe the Sheriff is not a “role” to play and the Sheriff’s main concern should not be “image”, but rather the safety and security of the citizens of Saginaw County.
Experience and Training – The Sheriff Department is uniquely multifaceted. Only someone who has a depth of varied experience and has received state-of-the-art training is truly qualified to serve as Sheriff. I have served in every capacity in the department and have received the best training and education available. A Desire to Serve and Involve the Community – The Sheriff must have heart and purpose for this job. I have a long history of community service and will continue with this commitment. Once elected, I will involve the community through a Community Advisory Board. An Ability to Lead and Empower – During my law enforcement career, I have negotiated union contracts, mediated grievances, dealt with litigation, and most importantly, earned the admiration and respect of my fellow officers, my team, and my superiors.
Karl: Honesty, Integrity, Leadership, and Experience. The Sheriff should be an example of what is best and steadfast in our society. We need a Sheriff that is true to our citizens and is a true PUBLIC SERVANT. I am that candidate. Honesty and Integrity show a person’s character. I was raised by my father who fought during WW II, and my mother who was a nurse back home during that time. Duty and Honor, Honesty, and Integrity were taught in our household, as it was in many households in that era. These traits make up who I am and how I live my life. I have been in leadership roles throughout my career. Making sure I trained my fellow officer’s how to stay alive, serve the public, and be the best they can be in their duties. This is what being a PUBLIC SERVANT is all about. Giving your best is the “normal” as a Law Enforcement Officer. Being the Undersheriff for 6 years, as well as my various leadership roles in my 35 years, has given me great insight of what is needed to be fiscally responsible and providing quality service that our citizens expect. This is how I live my life and how I raised my family.
Booker: The four top qualities, skills & abilities important for a Sheriff to possess are the same qualities a first time supervisor should have. The only difference is as a Sheriff these qualities should be more defined because of experience. Proven leadership and the ability to have your department work as one unit are two of the qualities. For example, different shifts should not perform task or use rules differently than the other shifts. Another top quality necessary is the ability to stay humble while leading. Your employees should feel comfortable around you and be stress free. Lastly, use a leadership style that allows input from all employees in the decision making process.
Federspiel: The top 4 qualities, skills and abilities needed to be a successful Sheriff are: 1. Communication (effective and honest communication is the bedrock of any successful leader). 2. Integrity (Always be honest, and be responsible for your actions) 3. Intelligence (Education and training are invaluable assets to any agency head) 4. Leadership (Lead by example; I wear my uniform and drive a marked patrol car on a daily basis).
Review: What do you feel are the biggest issues currently facing the Sheriff Department and Saginaw county over the next four years?
Karl: As your former Undersheriff for 6 years I see the biggest issues are delivering a quality law enforcement service with the budget issues faced by the Sheriff’s Office. I see the uncontrolled and unnecessary spending on frivolous items at the Sheriff’s Office solely to satisfy the vanity of our current Sheriff. The tens of thousands of dollars spent on a “Retro” look, and much less safe patrol vehicles is reckless. A complete uniform change over from brown to black is also a total waste of thousands of taxpayer dollars. And the list goes on and on.
The men and women of the Sheriff’s Office are of the highest quality. They routinely go above and beyond to serve us as citizens, while at the same time they are forced to perform their duties with fewer resources, because of the foolhardiness of the current Sheriff. Crime reduction is paramount. Smart law enforcement will reduce crime and cultivate an environment that will stimulate business growth, and in turn job growth. The absolutely biggest problematic issue facing the Sheriff’s Office and Saginaw County is the current Sheriff.
Booker: The biggest issues facing the department and Saginaw County over the next 4 years can be answered in one word: budget. As a Chief of Police and even as a patrolman the budget has always been the issue. I recall receiving my layoff notice after working a year and a half as a patrolman. The mentality that I have always used is to do more with less. The budget affects morale in the Sheriff’s department and the grow of Saginaw County. Employee health insurance and pensions in which a person can maintain a certain lifestyle after retirement. To combat the budget issue in law enforcement I have used more cost effective ways as Chief to perform the same task.
Federspiel: The biggest issues facing the Sheriff's Office over the next four years involve the displacement of crime from the City of Saginaw into surrounding communities. The Governor's Office has placed a great deal of emphasis on reducing violent crime within the City of Saginaw. With the Michigan State Police working collaboratively with the Saginaw Police Department and the Sheriff's Office we have realized significant reductions in violent crime over the past 5 years. Although this is great news for the residents of the City, the Sheriff's Office must continue to evaluate the displacement of crime that is taking place in the surrounding communities that are nearest to the city.
Under my direction and leadership, the Saginaw County Sheriff's Office will continue to play a major role in addressing this issue. It is a priority for me and my staff to continue to work with the citizens of our county and strategically plan for the ever-evolving trends of criminal activity therein. Our agency with continue to partner with the Saginaw Police Department and the Michigan State Police to address this issue.
Gutzwiller: Stagnant or shrinking revenues. The Sheriff Department has to be efficient and most importantly, responsible for taxpayer dollars. I believe in 100% transparency and that citizens should be aware of how their law enforcement tax dollars are spent.
Corrections and the Jail Building – Corrections is the area that holds the most liability. We have to ensure that the constitutional rights of incarcerated individuals are protected, as well as the safety and security of citizens and employees working in the jail. The jail building itself is in disrepair and it is crucial that the next Sheriff immediately begin to study how the jail will function in the future. There needs to be a study, which predicts jail population in the next two, five, and ten years.
Lawsuits and employment relations – There have been several lawsuits over the past few years, which have resulted from discrimination and harassment issues. These lawsuits have cost Saginaw County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to resolve. Discrimination and harassment are unacceptable and costly.
Review: Briefly discuss your main goals and reasons for seeking this office and how you would accomplish them.
Booker: I’m seeing the office of Sheriff to promote a diverse department, one that reflects the community which it serves. As employment background investigator and recruiter I would use my experience to accomplish this goal. I want to develop a community policing philosophy that promotes community trust. To add to that another goal is to partner with community programs to reduce repeat offenders in the jail.
My experience in planning and supervising the first group of Community Police Officers in the Saginaw PD (1994) will assist in obtaining this goal. I want to be an advocate for transparency in promoting employees. I would like to base those promotions on merit and job performance. In doing so another goal can be accomplished, which is to strengthen the partnerships with other law enforcement agencies to advance efficient law enforcement. These goals were all obtained while I was Chief in Buena Vista.
Federspiel: To continue to provide professional law enforcement services throughout the County of Saginaw and to be fiscally responsible in doing so. One of my immediate goals is to ensure that our 2016/2017 budget is completed and approved by the Commission in September of this year. Another goal is to continue to work with my Commissioners on a plan to provide a stable level of funding for ongoing training for my staff. We are also in discussions to apply for federal and state grants to implement a body-camera system for all deputies.
My goal of providing a high-visibility workforce is nearly complete. Earlier this year I used $70,000 of drug forfeiture money to purchase new lights and a new black and white color scheme for all of our patrol cars. I wanted to ensure that the public could rely on us to deter crime with our presence, to ensure that no citizen ever wondered whether they were being stopped by a legitimate law enforcement agency, and to protect my employees who encouraged me to find a suitable emergency lighting system that would provide true 360-degree visibility.
Longer-term goals include finding a solution to operating an aging jail facility, learning new crime-fighting techniques in an age of uncertainty, and finding new ways to effectively communicate with a population of individuals who rely upon traditional media outlets, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of communication in an ever-changing world.
Gutzwiller: 1) COLLABORATION – I believe that in order to ensure the greatest efficiency, full cooperation and collaboration with all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies is crucial. 2) TRANSPARENCY – I believe strongly that the citizens of Saginaw County deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent. I will regularly publish Sheriff Department expenditures. 3) A NEW FOCUS – I believe that Saginaw County’s most vulnerable citizens must be provided with education so they can better protect themselves from crime and fraud. Specifically, I am referring to the elderly, children, and those citizens with special needs. 4) COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT – I believe that community involvement is crucial to a healthy and effective law enforcement agency. I will develop a Community Advisory Board and foster countywide programs such as “Safe Kids Campaign”. 5) PROGRAMS FOR OFFICER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION – The Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office staff should reflect Saginaw County’s population. We need programs that will educate Saginaw young people about careers in law enforcement.
Karl: My main goals for the Sheriff’s Office are to run the Sheriff’s Office within its financial means and deliver a quality service. Cutting the tens of thousands of dollars wasted currently at the Sheriff’s Office. Hold the Sheriff’s Office accountable at ALL levels to insure these ideals are followed. Listen to the citizens and address their issues, after all the sheriff and his employees WORK FOR THEM! This is not a new or novel approach to solving problems. It is however a “Common Sense” approach to running the Sheriff’s Office. I am a PROFESSIONAL and not a POLITICIAN. Politician’s make promises that are never kept. Professional’s get results. I well get results!
Review: With the upcoming renewal of the current public safety millage being placed upon the November ballot, fiscal responsibility and department efficiency are important considerations involved with the office. Given the current economic & social climate of Saginaw County, does the department need more deputies and can it be structured to operate more efficiently? If so, what areas do you feel can be improved upon?
Federspiel: The Sheriff Services Millage (1.00 Mill) and the Road Patrol Millage (.3394 of a Mill) are currently on the August 2nd, 2016 Ballot as a combined Millage. The Saginaw County Controller, Robert Belleman, advised the County Commissioners in April that in order to continue our operations at the Sheriff's Office without any cuts to personnel or services, our two millages should be combined into one with an overall increase of .2700 of a Mill.
I never supported the idea of an increase, but I agree that the two millages should be rolled into one with no increase in taxation. I was informed by Mr. Belleman that the Sheriff's Office would face an annual deficit of $810,000 over the next 5 years. Based on that information, I worked closely with Sheriff Robert Pickell and State Senator Ken Horn and arranged to take 50 inmates from the Genesee County Jail at a rate of $45 per day, paid for by the State of Michigan.
This agreement will generate revenue for Saginaw County in the amount of $821,250 annually. It will not affect our ability to lodged inmates locally because our jail counts have been holding at 120 inmates lower than capacity for the past two years on average. This was accomplished because of the strategic planning done by me and my staff over the past 8 years.
Because of this agreement between Saginaw and Genesee Counties, and the State of Michigan, there will be no need to ask the public for any increase in millage taxation, and we will see no reduction in staffing or levels of service. (It should be noted that all Genesee County inmates, upon their release date, will be returned to Genesee County for release). This agreement would not have been possible without the strength of the relationships I have built with Legislators, Sheriffs and Commissioners. Therefore, because we have no need to ask the public for an increase, I am advocating that our staffing levels remain the same. We have restructured numerous times in the past 8 years in an effort to put the right personnel in positions to be more effective. I am proud of the work of the men and women who serve the public under my leadership and direction.
Gutzwiller: I believe the Department needs to operate more efficiently. If unnecessary spending is eliminated, then redirected funds can provide for an increased number of staff. Upon taking office, I will immediately begin to study where expenditures can be reduced in order to provide for additional road patrol and corrections staffing. For example, the Sheriff Department has made multiple changes in the past few years in equipment that did not require change and to “image” directed items such as uniforms, prisoner clothing, car design, etc. I would redirect this spending towards corrections and road patrol staff. I will not hesitate however, to request staffing beyond the current budget if needed.
Karl: The millage renewal is vital to providing a safe and effective policing service to our citizens. The Sheriff is charged with the oversight and spending of these precious taxpayer funds. The Sheriff works for the citizens! Of course more deputies and corrections officers would be more effective; however, it is not economically feasible with this economy. All areas of the Sheriff’s Office should be and will be constantly looked at for efficiency and ways to improve it. Cutting the current frivolous spending will happen immediately. I also have a plan that will save tens of thousands of dollars without costing the taxpayer a single dime or a single job. I also have another plan that will actually bring in funding to the Sheriff’s Office to coordinate and provide scholarships to our less fortunate youth, who’s only obstacle is obtaining funds for their further education.
Booker: To answer the question of efficiency in the Sheriff department requires budgetary background knowledge of how many corrections officers were there in the past years and what was the ratio of prisoners versus corrections officers. As a leader who had to address efficiency issues in the past I would first seek problem solving from the County Controller and all department union officials. With this input a plan can be developed and accepted that will improve the department.
Review: What do you feel are the biggest issue currently facing our jail system and what are your thoughts about alternative to incarceration and their effectiveness?
Gutzwiller: The aging jail is obviously our biggest challenge over the next few years. Predictive studies are crucial to ensure the best solution to this problem and to ensure taxpayer dollars are used responsibly.
Regarding alternative incarceration programs, only proven programs which do not compromise public safety, should be employed. I have worked for many years with Saginaw County courts employing alternative incarceration programs when appropriate. These programs can be very effective and there are numbers to support the idea that they can actually help to reduce recidivism. For example, community outreach programs for those individuals with mental illness or addiction issues can also be enormously helpful in this regard.
Karl: OVERCROWDING and the COST TO INCARCERATE. All jails and prisons experience these issues to one degree or another. As your Undersheriff for six years, I researched and advised and recommended the use of the advanced G.P.S. Tethering System that is currently being used by the Saginaw County Jail. In short, it gives the Judicial System an alternative to incarceration for those violators that don’t need to be in custody, thus saving the cost of housing, feeding, and supervising them in a jail setting. This and other alternatives will be constantly monitored, an improved upon for effectiveness. As your Professional Law Enforcement Sheriff, Fairness, Duty, Honor, Honesty and Integrity will be the order of the day.
Booker: The revolving door syndrome is always the major complaint that citizens mention. One of the goals mentioned earlier was to partner with community programs to reduce repeat offenders. Overcrowding has been an issue in the past, but currently it is not. A plan is in place to rent out beds. Mentally ill inmates are a big issue. Studies have shown that there are more people with severe mental illnesses in prisons and jails than hospitals. I think the alternative to incarceration such as treatment centers has to be seriously considered. Gang activity problems in jails and prison is constant.
Federspiel: The biggest issue facing our jail system is the increasing number of men and women who are incarcerated with severe mental health issues. In many instances, these individuals are lodged in local county jails throughout our state because they are not receiving the proper care within their own communities. This puts an extraordinary burden upon my jail staff and creates issues with classification of said individuals as well as housing issues.
Alternative incarceration options are a good idea. I have worked closely with our local elected judges, and we currently have more than 120 individuals who are out of the jail on GPS tether, Sober Link devices and who are required to be drug tested on a regular basis as opposed to being locked up in jail. These individuals are non-violent offenders who are required to pay $14 per day to the Sheriff's Office. This allows the offender to find and keep work, and it also pays for the tether equipment and wages for the deputies. I am in favor of these types of alternative incarceration programs.
Review: Well over a trillion dollars has been spent waging the War On Drugs; and it purportedly costs upwards of $31,000 to house an inmate each year. Prior to the Michigan Medical Marijuana initiative, 70% of the cases in our criminal system were devoted to drug-oriented matters & prosecutions, yet now our region is experiencing a heroin epidemic. What are your thoughts about the ‘War on Drugs’?
Karl: The War on Drugs is, and should be fought. The enforcement of these drug crimes is an ever evolving effort. As I stated previously, smarter policing and more effective enforcement and sentencing must constantly be looked at. The use of G.P.S. Tethering, wide use of Drug Courts, effective Treatment Centers and Drug Prevention Initiatives, all play an invaluable part in preventing drug abuse and its well documented effect on the individuals and our society. We can’t afford to give up on those damaged by the illegal drug trade. When we utilize our resources wisely, the total cost of incarceration will be manageable. I am a proud AMERICAN! And Americans don’t give up! We always find a way!
Booker: The War on Drugs is necessary to keep our citizens safe. I believe that the efforts from the U.S. Government to stop the drugs from entering the United States will never and end and they shouldn’t. Locally in my 27 years of law enforcement in Saginaw County I have noticed that drugs are like fashions. If you wait long enough it will come right back. Heroin was the preferred drug when I first became a cop in 1985. Now heroin is back again. The addiction and what a drug user will do to get drugs raises the crime rate and jail bed county. I believe our lawmakers must find additional funding for the treatment of the person addicted, which in turn will lower the crime rate. The police job is to serve and protect citizens from person who break the law. The issue of why the person committed the crime and what their mental capacity was during the crime doesn’t come into play when the handcuffs come out.
Gutzwller: It is well known that heroin, along with several opiate related drugs, have taken hold of individuals across all walks of life, ruined countless families and caused devastating health issues. I truly believe that through proactive education and enforcement we can put a dent in this problem. In addition, I have devoted years into training law enforcement and corrections officers in synthetic drug use.
Additionally, I believe it is vital for law enforcement officers to carry “Narcan” (naloxone) which immediately counteracts the effects of opiates when an overdose has occurred. The current Saginaw County Sheriff Department does not have Narcan available to officers and the officers are not trained in its use. This is unacceptable.
The current Sheriff eliminated the K-9 Unit. These dogs can detect incoming narcotics that humans are unable to identify. Upon taking office, I will reintroduce the K-9 Unit.
Federspiel: The War On Drugs is a term used to describe the United States' effort to label "dangerous" drugs and to formulate a strategic plan to eradicate crops and disrupt international drug traffic into the U.S. Much like the original Prohibition of alcohol was ineffective in the 1920's, certain laws prohibiting drug use have also failed. We must look to the business model of supply and demand. Those who are addicted to illegal drugs, and quite frankly even some legally prescribed drugs, must be treated for their addiction. When demand is high, enforcement becomes expensive and dangerous to both the citizenry and law enforcement officials. Since the early 1970's and the Nixon White House, the War On Drugs has shown very little, if any, reduction in the demand for drugs. With insignificant data to support continuance of the War on Drugs, we must look to the addiction side of the matter. Much like the campaign to outlaw cigarette smoking to minors had very little success over 50 years in stopping youth under the age of 18 from getting, and smoking, cigarettes, so too has the War On Drugs been unable to stop many people from obtaining and using illegal drugs outside of arrest and incarceration. The long term goal should be for a strategic anti-drug/anti-smoking educational campaign targeting youth.
The recently released Surgeon General’s report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, concluded that adequately funded anti-tobacco media campaigns reduce tobacco use among youth, and that there is a dose-response relationship between exposure to anti-smoking media messages and reduced youth smoking, i.e., the greater the exposure the less likely youth are to smoke. The report also found that teens respond most to ads that evoke strong negative emotions such as those that demonstrate how smoking and secondhand smoke harm health. Further, ads designed for adults can also reduce smoking among young people. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (www.tobaccofreekids.org) recently released a Surgeon General study that stated, "The scientific evidence is substantial and clear: public education campaigns reduce the number of youth who start smoking, increase the number of smokers who quit, and make tobacco industry marketing less effective, saving lives and health care dollars. The 2012 Report of the Surgeon General, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, concluded specifically and unequivocally: mass media campaigns “prevent the initiation of tobacco use and reduce its prevalence among youth.”1 The recently released 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress, affirms this conclusion and recommends, among other actions, “high impact national media campaigns…at a high frequency level and exposure for 12 months a year for a decade or more.”
In order to change the way we look at illegal drug use, I believe that we must first examine the core issues that lead to the use of illegal drugs. Education and treatment options should be a priority for our State and Federal Legislators. Mental Health detection and treatment, as well as addiction detection and treatment, should be issues that are prioritized at the legislative level in our country. As a Law Enforcement Executive, I must follow the laws as they are written. Law enforcement is exactly that: enforcement of the laws. With strong evidence to support public education campaigns, I believe that it is time to look at ways to prevent the initiation of illegal drug use among our youth and young adults. It will take time and effort, but in the absence of data to support any positive effects from the War On Drugs, it may be time to change direction.