Sheriff candidates on racial profiling, ICE and mental health
Becker County sheriff candidates Todd Glander and Al Fowler met at a candidate forum Monday in White Earth held by the League of Women Voters of the Lakes Area. Here are some highlights:
Is there racial profiling in Becker County?
Fowler: "I believe there still is racial profiling anywhere in the United States and the world," he said, both in old pockets and new pockets. "Daily we're being divided by politics," he added, "and I was trained in the Marine Corps for equal opportunity. We're going to bring in more equal opportunity, training and understanding so that we aren't racially profiling." The bottom line is that everyone needs to be respected, he said.
Glander: "First of all, I would hope not," he said. "But if we found out there there was racial profiling in Becker County, we're going to go at that headfirst and make sure that it's addressed. Our mission statement at the Sheriff's Office is to provide the highest level of service to everyone, no matter what status..."
How will you ensure women and girls are safe?
Glander; "Our office works very well right now with the Lakes Crisis and Resource Center and DOVE here in White Earth," he said. "If it is reported, I expect and I demand that these issues will be dealt with accordingly, and proper investigations will prevail ... we have to work together with all agencies."
Fowler: "I truly believe that our deputies, our officers are doing the best job they can on this," he said. Body cameras are used on the White Earth Police Department and he would like to bring that to the sheriff's office as well "to help capture that initial utterance so that we can help enforce and prosecute the offenders of this," he said, "and make it easier on the victims during the prosecution." Making sure officers are trusted and approachable is important for victims, he said.
Domestic abuse and contacting ICE
Fowler: "If it's the offender that's an illegal immigrant, we definitely will be contacting ICE. Hopefully, we'll be prosecuting prior to deporting so that they have a record in the States, because all too often what happens is we just deport and we don't actually put a criminal record against these individuals so if they cross the border and come back in, there's no record... If it's the victim (reporting), we will have to contact ICE, but we'll do everything we can to still treat them like a victim and get them the assistance we can prior to deportation, or to work with them for safe travels."
Glander: "If they are the victim they are the priority, getting them the services they need, whether it be medical, services with the crisis centers, but doing that investigation no matter who that person is, again, going with our mission statement. And if it's the offender, which I don't believe the offender would report this situation, they would be dealt with accordingly. We do contact ICE quite often with people we come in contact with, and we have held them in our jail until they've been handled by ICE. Either way it would be handled accordingly."
Law enforcement and mental health
Glander: "Right now the county is looking at the Yellow Line Project, which is that very thing — if law enforcement comes into contact with somebody with mental health issues or other chronic issues, what are the resources out there other than jail? The last thing we want to do is put that person in jail, so we're looking at resources in the community, whether it be the hospital or human services or some other group that can help with that situation." Over 50 percent of local jail inmates have mental health issues, he added, "so it is a problem, but we are looking at ways to tackle that."
Fowler: "This is an issue that I have actually been speaking to some of the legislators about already. This is an issue that has been thrown into law enforcement's lap — we've taken away a lot of capabilities of mental health providers with being able to restrict individuals, and all too often law enforcement is called in," he said. "We need to continue to seek assistance and to continue to work with mental health providers and legislators to find a true solution to this issue, because we're putting people with mental health issues in jail, and that's not where they need to be."
Has your experience helped you deal with inmates?
Glander: Working five years in the jail, I learned how to treat people, and you treat people with respect," he said. "I learned to understand what they're going through and what resources they need. Just locking those people up isn't always the best thing to do." He has seen multiple generations of a family pass through the jail, often due to domestic abuse issues, he said.
Fowler: "I also worked at the jail, I was Sentencing to Service crew leader for four years, and I took inmates out and I was handing them axes, shovels and other items that could very easily be used as weapons," he said. "It would be me and upwards of 10 inmates out working on various projects, in the middle of the woods, so I learned to treat people like human beings — how would I want to be treated." he said he would sometimes mentor them, letting them what resources were available once they got out. "Also as a U.S. Marine I worked with a cross section of the United States, people from every corner of the US, every walk of life," he said. "From them I learned compassion, and to look at what they're trying to do and find way they can improve their lives." Fowler said he would bring that to the sheriff's role as well.