(La Porte County, IN) - Three candidates seek the Democratic Party nomination in the May 3 primary for LaPorte County Sheriff. Current Sheriff John Boyd is nearing the end of his second and final term.
JAMES D. ARNOLD
Sgt. James D. Arnold has been with the sheriff’s office since 1999, when he started as a jail officer. He was promoted to patrol officer two years later. Arnold is currently the day shift commander of the patrol division.
His top priority is establishing a trauma response team consisting of mental health experts to help officers more effectively cope with some of the worst experiences they encounter on the job.
Arnold said the mental health professionals would be placed into a rotation for responding to traumatic or high-stress events to help officers deal with their emotions right away to reduce the potential for long-term struggles. He said team members would also be made available to officers later, if necessary.
Currently, Arnold said officers struggling with their emotions schedule an appointment and often wait several weeks before seeing a mental health professional.
“We see things people aren’t meant to. We pack up and go to the next call, and then we have to go home and deal with our families and hope everything just holds together,” Arnold said.
Arnold wants to hire more patrol officers to more adequately cover a county that has the second-largest amount of square miles in the state. However, he doesn't believe there are not enough officers available for all shifts at times to provide the best response to calls consistently.
“A lot of times, we run at the minimum, and the minimum is way too low,” Arnold said.
Arnold said he also wants a more culturally diverse staff and improved employee relations.
Capt. Andy Hynek was a heavy equipment operator in the military before joining the sheriff’s department 22 years ago as a jail officer. He later moved up to patrol officer and then detective before joining the Fugitive Apprehension Street Team as a member of the sheriff’s office in 2014.
In F.A.S.T., Hynek worked with officers from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and other jurisdictions to arrest fugitives throughout Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area. Since 2019, Hynek has been the midnight shift commander for the patrol division.
Hynek's top priority is reducing the percentage of inmates committing future crimes through “meaningful incarceration.”
“We simply have way too many inmates that are repeated offenders,” Hynek said.
His strategy includes establishing a separate court where sentencing focuses more on requiring mental health treatment in cases where psychological or emotional well-being is a significant contributor to breaking the law.
“We need to institute programs and give them that little bit of hope, so they stop coming back,” Hynek said.
Hynek said he also wants to combat the use of heroin by having people who’ve overcome their additions speak to young people, an approach he believes is more effective than having a police officer talking to kids.
“What does work is somebody who has lived that life and has beat addiction tell their stories,” Hynek said.
Capt. Al Ott, a 29-year member of the sheriff’s office, has been the LaPorte County Jail Commander since 2018.
Ott said what he wants to bring to the office is administrative experience gained from running a jail with a $4.6 million annual budget and 71 employees. He also cites knowledge of working with companies contracted now to provide medical services and meals to jail inmates.
Ott said nobody else in the race has that level of administrative skills vital to being a sheriff because of working strictly as a patrol officer as he did before becoming jail commander.
“That’s going to be something no other candidate is going to be able to talk about,” Ott said.
Ott wants to address further employee retention problems currently being worked on with the Local Income Tax. The proposed increase in the local income tax from .95 to 1.45-percent is expected to be approved soon, and the funds will be used strictly to increase the pay of emergency responders and other public safety needs.
Ott also wants to continue efforts designed to promote the personal growth of employees, which improves service.
“You empower them. We do that in the jail every day. I’ve seen it, and it’s rewarding,” Ott said.