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Who will be the New Sheriff in town?

By Joe Starkey



A series of four forums were held at the national Children’s Literacy Center to educate Abilene voters on the issues and candidates for the May 10th election and the sheriff’s race in November.The first forum featured the candidates for Sheriff of Taylor County. Mr. Art Casarez is the {{more}} Democratic candidate and Mr. Les Bruce is the Republican candidate.Mr. Casarez opened by stressing his experience with many departments, the jail and probation office. He wants to incorporate a quality of justice for all people, to discuss openly issues such as drive bys and family violence, to protect both employees and the citizens and get out into the community. He also stated that he feels that minority issues are not equitably dealt with.Mr. Les Bruce’s vision for the community is to serve and protect the individuals of the community. He listed positions of increasing responsibility within the Abilene Police Department while serving on multi jurisdictional forces. He will build on existing relationships and build others for protection of both individuals and the community. Each individual will be dealt with “as an individual.”Question – what is the most important need of the Sheriff’s Department?Les Bruce – The issue of morale is an umbrella over two issues. Those issues are Salary and staffing.Art Cesarez – Leadership which only I can offer. You cannot transpose city experience to the county offices.Question – How would you implement more faith based ministry for inmates?AC – Prison Ministry gives inmates hope and offers transformation.LB – Any and all religious programs should be accepted in the jail.Question – How would you discourage abuse of prisoners?LB – Has developed a plan to eliminate chances for inmates or guards to be reckless. All incidents must be investigated and dealt with on an individual basis. Once moral and training are up – many of current incidents should not happen.AC – I do not believe that inmate is always wrong. Jail culture is very backward. It’s a different, alien and cruel world.Question – Is there a value in locking inmates up and throwing away the key?AC – we need to transition prisoners back into society. They are human beings and we should be concerned. He stated that he had a new way to do drug enforcement but never gave any details or even an outline.LB – We need to improve customer service for all including the family and public. The Sheriff’s office needs to share information gathered with the public. He is developing a program to show family and children that the officer is not the enemy.Question – Beds and space versus Staffing.LB – We have beds full causing stress in inmates and officers. We need to improve the situation.AC – It can’t be discussed unless you have been there.Question – What do you think of an inmate feedback system for policies?AC – Never thought of that. A grievance process is in place. Inmates deserve access to the library and TV. These should not be privileges which can be taken away. They should have a way to express grievances.LB – A system is in place to deal with grievances. Every week there are searches for weapons that have been made in the jail from toothbrushes and disposable razors. Then new toothbrushes and razors have to be issued.Question – Are the officers trained to tell the difference between a diabetic and a drunk?LB – All officers are trained in the functional differences. A primary one is the odor of alcohol.AC – We have to look at each person as a human being.Question – Illegal immigration, Will you support ID and turn over to Federal authorities?AC – Federal government should set standards. I will wait until the Federal standards are clear.LB – Illegals are just that. Already defined by current law and will be arrested and dealt with by current laws.Closing StatementsAC – It is important to use the probation office to give a second chance to people. No city experience can qualify you for county service.LB – Must have people you trust in positions. Law enforcement officer is a professional position and he has trained as such for his entire career. I will build relationships with the community and have the security experience to deal with issues inside the jail.

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