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Russell believes his outsider status is what sheriff's office needs
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Rob Russell


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Published: 12/29/2009 12:00 AM

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If Rob Russell is the new sheriff in town, he'll be gunning to take down what is universally recognized as an overly top-heavy department in Kane County.

Russell is one of two Republicans vying to replace Sheriff Pat Perez. Russell believes the recurring problems with Perez' budget stem from him being too close to his employees and not creative enough to find new revenue solutions.

"Mr. Perez stopped bringing in solutions and basically made the (Kane County) Board his solution," Russell said. "I just didn't see a list of initiatives, whether it be cutbacks or income-generation things that were realistic that Mr. Perez brought to the table."

Perez did cut his budget through reduced fuel-efficient vehicle replacement, and recently pitched a plan to charge jail inmates a new fee to recoup some of the costs of providing their health care. He also developed a plan to divert more RTA sales tax dollars to public safety that would've helped his budget. However, Russell said Perez' budget problems were more of a staffing problem stemming from poor allocation of personnel.

"From what I understand, out of the 90 officers, 42 are patrolling the street," Russell said. "That is the number that I have been told. I think it is completely ridiculous. He's admitted he has a top-heavy department. Whether he created it or not is not the issue. He's the sitting sheriff. He needed to address that in a more timely fashion that attrition. These officers can be reallocated in a better way."

The trick is making reallocation happen while maintaining morale and respect for authority within the department. Russell said that's why being the only candidate in the race without a history of employment in the Kane County Sheriff's Department is an advantage.

"I can objectively do the right thing, the thing that needs to happen," Russell said. "It's more difficult in (Perez's) situation when you've grown up with these people, and you know what the right thing is to do, and you're not able to do it because you went to the fourth grade with some guy. I appreciate that. On the other hand, I know that the taxpayers' dollars have to be allocated and spent the right way."

Russell believes the best way to spend tax dollars the right way is to pursue national accreditation for the department. The process would take up to four years and cost money, but Russell said the process will eliminate some of the unacceptable realities in the department. Those include response times up to 30 minutes for the far western boundaries of the county, the lack of township deputies and poor communication with union employees. He believes 90 sworn officers is enough to adequately protect county residents.

"I wouldn't say accreditation is a silver bullet," Russell said. "But it is a logical way to solve these problems because we are not looking inwardly for the solutions; we're looking nationally."

Russell said the department must also explore more income-generating ideas such as charging for towing and creating partnerships with drug task forces that have helped bring up to $400,000 of new money to the DuPage County Sheriff's office where Russell currently works.

Russell is opposed to the use of red light cameras in the county. His opponent in the Republican primary is Don Kramer, a recently retired member of the management team of the Kane County Sheriff's Department.