Both contenders for Allen County sheriff in the May 6 Republican primary have nearly 30 years’ experience in law enforcement, but each has a different vision for where he would like to take the department.
With nearly 28 years under his belt, Dave Gladieux, currently the chief deputy, is ready for a shot at the top spot with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department.
Through the years, he’s worked in every division of the department, except the warrants division, and feels his experience speaks for itself.
I’ve dedicated my adult life to the department and worked my way up through the ranks, basically training for the job, Gladieux said in a recent interview.
His opponent, Sgt. Luke NaThalang of the Indiana State Police, also brings extensive experience, having been with the state police for 29 years.
Changes in crime trends in Allen County and school-safety concerns are what drove him to try to trade his blue uniform for brown.
I see that not much is being done to be proactive; we’re always kind of a reactive type of agency, NaThalang said of the sheriff’s department’s approach to such issues.
For NaThalang, school safety and an officer presence at schools is paramount to deterring children from taking a path toward criminal behavior as they get older.
He would like to see officers spend time with elementary students in a mentor role, rather than the standard school resource officer program in place at many middle and high schools.
It helps mentor the little children, and we provide security for the school at the same time, NaThalang said, adding that such visits to schools would not necessarily mean officers need to take attention from their daily responsibilities.
Gladieux, meanwhile, is quite proud of the progress he said county police have made when it comes to their presence in Allen County’s schools.
With school resource officers in Northwest Allen, Southwest Allen and East Allen county school districts, Gladieux said he supports the program and would plan to continue it.
Despite the gains the program has made in recent years, Gladieux acknowledges that he would like to see officers have more interaction with the students.
For NaThalang, working with younger students could be one of many long-term approaches to ease the burden on an ever-increasing jail population.
If we can help 100 kids, that’s 100 less beds we need in the jail, he said of how daily involvement with children can have long-lasting benefits.
Whichever candidate eventually wins the sheriff’s race will have the jail front and center as an issue to tackle.
Space is already limited, and with local courts unable to send as many offenders to the Department of Correction, the county will need to take a serious look at the future of its jail, Gladieux said.
He cited unused space and a less-than-desirable layout of the facility as challenges that await the next sheriff.
It’s an absolute logistic mess on the inside, he said.
Aside from the brick and mortar, Gladieux wants to work with state legislators to try to change obligations on county jails to treat inmates’ pre-existing conditions, especially when they are sentenced to relatively short jail terms.
He has no qualms with being made to treat such conditions during a long incarceration but feels some treatments are not necessary for inmates with 30-day sentences, or less.
Such a change, though, would require a revision in state law as it applies to jails and inmate care, he said.
When it comes to future projects or an agenda for the department, the candidates diverge further in their views.
Gladieux feels the current administration has done well and started some good projects he would like to continue, including the training facility on Adams Center Road and talks of a new K-9 training facility.
With nearly $1.3 million invested so far in the training facility, Gladieux wants to continue the project to completion but said he would seek a private-public venture for funding as opposed to the goal of current Sheriff Ken Fries to use only private donations.
Gladieux said renting out the driving track to businesses on weekends would be one way of supplementing the facility budget.
As for a new K-9 facility, Gladieux said the department desperately needs a new facility and would again seek a private-public partnership for funding.
On both issues, NaThalang feels the department could better spend its money elsewhere.
He sees no reason why the department couldn’t work with Fort Wayne city police to reach an agreement for both departments to use the city’s K-9 training facility.
He shares similar sentiments to the training facility on Adams Center Road and sees the practical approach to be that of sharing with other departments regarding their facilities.
As for the candidates’ backgrounds, Gladieux feels his time with the department and work with other county offices is a major benefit.
NaThalang views his background with an agency removed from county government as having more potential to benefit the department.
Coming in as an outsider, NaThalang said one of his first priorities would be to talk with the leaders of all divisions in the department to see what’s working and what needs changed.
He feels the partnerships and connections he’s made while at the state police would be of great benefit to county police when needed.
For Gladieux, knowing all the local players and working with them throughout the years will be a major asset, he said.
His work with County Council over the years provided experience with budgets and doing the most with what few resources are available, especially when it comes to employee numbers, he said.