The three Republican candidates for Johnson County Sheriff gave the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives a look at their priorities Tuesday, fielding a number of questions from a packed house of about 80 people.
Dennis Hammer, Calvin Hayden and John Resman will be on the ballot in the Republican August primary. No Democrats have filed for sheriff to replace retiring Frank Denning. All three candidates have had long careers with the sheriff’s department before retiring from law enforcement.
Each of the three candidates said they would be adamantly opposed to any plan to privatize the jail and all three agreed that a top issue facing the department involves personnel and the difficulty in hiring new officers. It takes years to train officers “and then we lose them,” Hayden said. Resman and Hammer both pointed to the overtime costs associated with the staffing challenges.
Asked if the command structure at the department is top heavy, none of the three disagreed. Hammer said the structure is top heavy and can be reduced by attrition. Hayden said there are a lot of officers at the command level and it needs an analysis to see what is needed. He noted a large number are eligible for retirement. Resman agreed the structure is top heavy and advocated more direct supervision.
The candidates fielded a wide range of questions including:
Working with immigration service – Hammer said he would bring INS people into the sheriff’s office to work more closely with the office. Hayden said the problem was INS not doing its job and a better way to get INS to react is needed. Resman said a proposed law to get a database with immediate notice about violaters would be helpful.
NRA – Hayden and Resman said they are members of the National Rifle Association. Both Hayden and Hammer specifically said they believe people have the right to defend themselves. Hayden, a former firearms instructor, was the most specific saying if someone broke into his house they would be coming into the “kill zone.” Resman said he believes in constitutional carry, adding that campus carry would die down as a controversial issue.
Keeping two jails – None of the three advocated for closing one of the jail structures, citing the different arrangements in each and the prospect of needing the space in the future.
Use of civilian dispatchers – All three agreed that the dispatchers should be uniformed officers and not civilians.
Questions also ranged across issues such as federal intervention, personnel issues at the crime lab, forfeiture of funds and experience since leaving the sheriff’s department.
Hayden served as a county commissioner after law enforcement, Hammer worked as a paraprofessional in the Olathe schools and Resman has volunteered with service agencies and the park system.