By: CARTER DEJONG
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, IU South Bend hosted the St. Joe County Sheriff debate between Bill Redman (D) and Paul Jonas (R). The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the IUSB Political Science Club and the American Democracy Project (ADP). The moderator of the debate was Elizabeth Bennion, political science professor and director of the ADP.
The night began with both candidates giving their opening statements, then they jumped right into the questions.
One of the most important jobs of the sheriff department is to ensure that the community’s schools are safe. Redman has spent most of his career in law enforcement within schools. He spent 18 years teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program and has also been a school resource officer. His plan to make schools safer includes having any schools that do not already have part time officers receive them through grants.
“There are many people I truly care about that are within the walls of these schools,” he said.
Jonas also voiced his support for increasing police presence in local schools, stating “ I don’t believe in arming teachers, let us do the policing and let them do the teaching”.
Another important issue facing the office of sheriff is gun control.
“I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment, everyone has the right to bear arms. I do not believe in gun control whatsoever” Jonas said when asked his position on gun control. Jonas also mentioned that he believed criminals will always get a hold of guns regardless of the law.
When Redman was asked the same question, he responded by mentioning the large amount of mass shootings that have occurred throughout the past few years by individuals who obtained their guns legally.
“We as law enforcement in our community need to ensure that those people cannot possess a gun” Redman said.
One aspect of gun control that both candidates partly agreed on was requiring gun owners to pass a background check that would include determining if they have a history of mental illness.
The issue of the nationwide opioid crisis was also discussed at the debate.
When asked whether he would take a more criminal justice approach or a public health approach, Jonas said “possession of opioids is a crime, the best thing we need to start doing is being proactive.” He then spoke on his plan to join a task force from La Porte County and other surrounding counties to prevent opioids from entering Indiana.
If elected, Redman would take a more public health approach.
“First we have got to do what we can to educate the public on the dangers of opioids,” he said.
In terms of prosecuting those in possession of the drugs, Redman would like the focus to be on catching the dealers much more as opposed to the users.
The night ended with closing statements where each candidate was able to tell the audience why they should vote for them.
“If you vote for me you will get a hard-working individual that wants to improve our police, jail and community to make sure we are safe every day.” Redman said.
In Jonas’ closing statement he said, “We need a sheriff that will be the on the forefront of change, education, and training as pillars of success”.