KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — It is not the only race on the Republican ballot May 8, but the race for the nomination for Kosciusko County Sheriff is perhaps the most popular and contested race.
Four men, all with backgrounds in law enforcement, have thrown their names into the public realm to seek the nomination. The candidates are Anthony “Tony” Ciriello, Milford; Kyle Patrick Dukes, Milford; William “Rocky” Goshert, Warsaw, incumbent; and Christopher D. Rager, Winona Lake.
Ciriello, current county coroner, has been in law enforcement for 37 years. He was an arson investigator for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, joined the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department serving as an officer with DARE, narcotics, patrolman, supervisor and detective. In 2005 he became Syracuse Police Chief serving almost 11 years before being appointed Kosciusko County Coroner, a position held since September 2015.
Dukes, a trooper with the Indiana State Police for 18 years, began his law enforcement career as a reserve deputy with the Noble County Sheriff’s Department. He has been a member of the ISP Riot Team, assigned to presidential and governor security details and handling crowd and traffic control at major sporting events.
Goshert, current sheriff, has had 38 years in law enforcement, 21 years with the Indiana State Police and 17 years as a county officer. He served two terms as sheriff, from 2007-2015 and was elected by a Republican caucus in 2018 to fill the remaining term of the former sheriff. He has served as corporal and captain.
Rager started as a reserve officer with the North Webster Police Department in 1997 and became a full-time officer in 1998. He joined the sheriff’s department in 2000 and was a school resource officer for Wawasee Community School Corp. He served as a DARE officer, a corporal and is currently assigned to the county drug task force and is a member of the county SWAT team.
Each of the candidates were asked to respond to three questions. The following are their responses, with the responses being listed as their names will appear on the ballot.
What issues are facing the sheriff’s department and how would you resolve those issues?
Ciriello — “… the safety of and service to the community and maintenance of law and order. As a community, our biggest issue right now is the opioid epidemic and the crimes related to that beyond the addiction. Providing services to those addicted will greatly reduce the drug related crimes … in-house treatment, as well as treatment after release …
“As a department, a key issue to be addressed is the safety and wellbeing of the officers. … they see things every day that have a natural adverse effect on their mental and emotional wellbeing … we must implement and maintain programs to address this concern for them, their families, the department and our community. … mental health therapy for an officer has to be a well-accepted and encouraged part of their overall health… .”
Dukes — “… bring all law enforcement departments together into a working relationship to make Kosciusko County a better and safer place to live… our communities will be safer for you and your family. … I took it upon myself to begin holding routine police chief meetings to gain a better understanding … problems departments are having with the administration at the sheriff’s department. … this team of leaders has cooperated to focus on finding solutions to important issues facing our communities. … I am honored to say that seven out of nine police chiefs in Kosciusko County have endorsed me to be your next sheriff. The citizens of Kosciusko County deserve a fresh start, and I am the candidate who can best lead the sheriff’s department forward.”
Goshert — “The sheriff’s department is currently dealing with a new wave of drug abuse, …. We are tackling this problem from multiple angles.
“… drugs and other contraband into our jail. We recently changed our policy on inmate mail … We are also working toward the purchase of a full body scanner … .
“… Most of our inmates are facing severe addictions … we’re working closely with the Indiana Attorney General to set up a jail chemical addiction program, which would allow qualified and willing inmates to receive professional treatment for their addictions while they are incarcerated.
Additionally, in cooperation with the Bowen Center and Advanced Medical Staff, we are instituting a program to provide soon-to-be-released, opioid-addicted inmates with Vivitrol treatment.”
Rager — “Helping opioid addicts is important … Incarceration forces addicts to separate themselves from the drug and stay clean for an extended period of time. Then we can begin treating the physical, emotional and mental health of the person … .
“School safety is also a top priority. We must find a way to keep our children safe inside our schools. We need to work together with federal, state and local governments to fund programs that would put armed officers in every school. … This would significantly cut down on response time and make it possible to confront the intruder. We would work together with each school corporation to make the program unique to their schools and their needs.”
Are there programs/training you feel could/should be provided by the sheriff’s department?
Ciriello — “Professional development and ongoing training for all officers is imperative. … Law enforcement involves communication with citizens and every officer can benefit by sharpening their communication skills. It involves emergency response to violent, life threatening incidents of infinite size, shape and magnitude. Our officers should constantly train to be effective in their response. … If our officers better understand the citizens they are interacting with, they can solve their problems more efficiently and effectively … .
“Public education must also be considered, ideally through local service clubs, churches, schools, weekend academies or social service providers. The sheriff’s department needs to engage community members in the training process; this will result in both a better informed public and a better informed and well trained officer.”
Dukes — “As a father of two sons in the local school system, school safety is an issue I am passionate about and I feel we can improve upon … I will implement a program in which our deputies conduct safety walk-throughs within our schools … having a marked police car sitting out front and a fully trained officer walking around the school is a deterrent to a possible act of violence. It also allows the deputies to build relationships with the students and earn their trust and friendship … I will support the current school resource officer program and provide adequate training for this deputy. I am currently looking into innovative ways to get more children involved in our D.A.R.E. program, including home-schooled students … .”
Goshert — “In addition to the JCAP and Vivitrol programs we are developing, we would like to continue and strengthen our programs already in place.
“We will continue our DARE program …. We will continue to provide inmates with the opportunity to earn their GED, and to attend AA, NA, domestic violence, and anger management classes. We will continue to support the jail ministry and inmate Bible studies.
“We will continue our firearm classes to educate the public on the safe handling, storing, and firing of firearms.
“We will continue our reserve training program … We also need to continue training our first responders on the dangers of fentanyl and how to properly handle the drug … .”
Rager — “A county wide training needs to be conducted, in cooperation with area school corporations, on active shooter preparedness. … It will teach many valuable lessons on teamwork, mission completion, and evacuation of wounded subjects. We could include the local hospitals to show how treatment and patient assessment will be conducted. The school staff would see what it could be like in an active shooter situation, and try to execute the plans they already have in place … .
“I would like to see the sheriff’s department offer some handgun safety courses … We could instruct what to do if an officer is responding to your residence and a firearm is involved … .”
What changes would you make in the department?
Ciriello — “… There are some positive changes needed in the sheriff’s department. … If I am elected, I will immediately assemble a strategic plan committee to fully study each division of the department and make recommended changes as swiftly as reasonably possible. The goal of this committee is to identify what works and what does not work, review policies and assignment of personnel. One of the main goals of our strategic plan is to address the issues of trust and legitimacy between the sheriff’s department and the community. … reflective of community values. This committee would then work to overhaul the performance evaluations which should include the officer’s ability to participate in problem solving with the community.”
Dukes — “To effectively combat the drug epidemic, it is crucial that one unified drug task force be formed. … This unified drug task force needs to work with drug rehabilitation organizations to reduce the occurrence of repeat offenders.
“There also needs to be a full-time public information officer. This officer will work closely with media outlets to keep the public apprised of current issues … and will play a key role in partnering with our local school corporations.
“Another change … is holding routine meetings to which all police departments are invited. … share case reports, suspect lists, as well as tips and leads that the citizens of Kosciusko County provide … .”
Goshert — “… We continue to serve, grow and make important changes to adapt to changing circumstances.
In the past months, … performance management training, … addiction recovery Initiative and our … incident command structure training, all to deal with new challenges in policing. We’ve also increased our focus on school and church security.
“… we would like to see a reunified countywide drug task force. … In cooperation with the prosecutor’s office, the Warsaw Police Department and the Indiana State Police, we need to develop a coherent command structure and standard operating procedures for the task force’s operation. … all officers from all agencies will have notice of the legal and ethical standards to which they’ll be held.”
Rager — “I would not come in and make any significant changes to the department right away. … I would take the time to talk to the road deputies, to see what changes they would like to see implemented. This would help them have stock in the changes of the department and show them that their new sheriff would listen to their concerns and work with them to make the job better. … They know what changes need to take place and what needs to stay the same.
“I would look at all divisions of the sheriff’s department, asses them, and make changes that need to be made to streamline the processes … .”