(La Porte County, IN) - The Republican primary race for La Porte County Sheriff on May 3 is between Chief Deputy Sheriff Ron Heeg and Patrol Officer Andrew Morse.
In 1997, Heeg began working as a jail officer for the sheriff’s department and began patrol duty about 18 months later. He later became a detective and was a commander for the patrol division when promoted to Chief Deputy in 2015.
Heeg's priorities include reducing crime by strengthening partnerships with various professionals to help reduce the use of narcotics and people struggling with mental health. He believes that many people whose mental health issues are not being treated self-medicate by turning to alcohol and drugs, often leading to crime.
“Everybody wants to feel safe in their home and the two biggest things affecting public safety right now is the drugs/heroin epidemic and mental health issues,” Heeg said.
Heeg also wants to invest more into developing leadership skills in young officers, so they’re ready for higher-ranking positions vacated by retirement. In addition, he wants to provide incentives for officers to take better care of themselves, considering the national average lifespan of people in law enforcement is just 57-years because of the stressful nature of the job.
Heeg said other goals include police officers investing more of their time out in the communities.
“We need to do more community outreach, whether it’s town hall meetings that we used to have here at the sheriff’s office or coffee with a cop type programs that we held here several years ago. Those were very successful,” Heeg said.
Andrew Morse began with the sheriff’s department in 2001 as a jail officer and then was promoted two years later to the patrol division. He’s also a part-time school resource officer at New Prairie Middle School.
Morse's top priority is having officers represented by the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police work under a collective bargaining agreement. Currently, the amount of pay and benefits are decided by the La Porte County Council yearly.
Morse said officers would have a stronger voice if represented in contract talks by the FOP and how much they will receive from year to year until a new collective bargaining agreement has to be renegotiated. Currently, Morse said the sheriff has to ask the council each year to give officers a raise, and there are no guarantees on whether pay will be increased or by how much.
“Some years, we get a raise. Some years we don’t,” Morse said.
Morse believes that a collective bargaining agreement would also help reduce turnover and make filling job openings easier when departments are competing against each other for quality officers.
“Everybody is hurting for employees. Anything we can do to stand out to help us look better it’s going to help,” Morse said.
Morse said a majority of the officers would have to support the move before he would pursue it.
He also wants to re-establish a family atmosphere that seems to have vanished over the years.
“When I first started, we were going on fishing trips together, doing things after hours together. We’ve kind of gotten away from that,” Morse said.