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May 4, 2014

Four lawmen vie for Floyd County Sheriff

Primary offers opposed Democrat and Republican races

FLOYD COUNTY — Four candidates are running for Floyd County Sheriff with opposition in both the Democrat and Republican primary races.

Darrell Mills has served as the county’s sheriff since 2007 and is ineligible to seek another term. Mills is also a candidate for Floyd County clerk.

Those running to succeed Mills are Republicans Frank Loop and Steve Bush and Democrats Jeff Topping and Brad Striegel.

REPUBLICANS

STEVE BUSH

New Albany Police Department sergeant and three-term Floyd County Commissioner Steve Bush, 46, Georgetown, says his educational background, experience as an elected official and history in law enforcement make him a uniquely qualified candidate.

Bush said he as built a “solid foundation” to serve as the next Floyd County sheriff by first earning a criminology degree from Indiana State University, serving 22 years as an NAPD officer and serving as a county commissioner.

“It seems like I have dedicated my whole life to public service,” Bush said. “Coming out of high school, I went to college for the very reason of becoming a police officer. It wasn’t an afterthought. It has always been a passion of mine to work with the community.”

Bush was first elected as a commissioner in 2004 and served on the board ever since. That experience is something no other candidate can offer, and Bush says it gives him familiarity of working with government officials and budgetary matters.

“It gives me the ability to work with the county council and commissioners, if I’m elected sheriff, and it gives me the knowledge to work within government,” he said.

As sheriff, Bush said he would launch an integrated four-step plan to improve police coverage in the county and increase overall services.

“I have a specific detailed vision of working with the community and the implementation of proactive policing programs,” he said.

Bush said his plan includes working with the citizens, business leaders and churches to identify problems in the community.

“You have to have the community involvement because who is going to know the problems in their own community and own backyard? It is the citizens in the community,” Bush said.

He said his plan also includes a zero-tolerance policy regarding issues pertinent to quality of life in the community, such as noise violations, loitering and public intoxication.

The final step of Bush’s plan, intelligence-led policing, includes data gathering and mapping to illustrate where crimes are occurring and where he would concentrate police forces.

Bush said his plan will not be carried out in consecutive phases, but as a strategically combined effort.

He also said it is crucial to work with law enforcement agencies throughout the county and access federal resources to most effectively minimize crime.

Bush also said he wants to create a select group of officers to conduct aggressive policing.

“We have to be proactive in our approach and what we do, and just putting police officers on the street is not going to be the answer alone,” he said. “You do have to have reactive policing, which means you are in the community just being seen, but, really, you are going to have to have a group of officers that are targeting the folks that are continually committing the crimes in our community.”

Bush said he would also make an effort to reach out to Floyd County youths through programs that would foster positive relations between law enforcement and community members while at a young age.

He said the budget and managing the county jail will be the most significant challenges to any candidate who takes office.

“We have a service to give to the people, and those services will not be sacrificed, if I am elected sheriff,” he said.

FRANK LOOP

Floyd County Sheriff’s Lt. Frank Loop, 54, Borden, is looking to take the lead of the sheriff’s office after more than three decades with the agency.

He says his experience with the FCSD will allow him to take charge with virtually no learning curve.  

“I can take office from day one, and everything will be smooth,” he said. “That is what I bring to the table more than anyone else.”

Loop said being elected sheriff is a natural next step from him, following a long career in public safety.

“I have worked my whole adult life doing emergency services,” Loop said. “I started in an ambulance. I went from there to the sheriff’s department. I have done everything at the sheriff’s department, but be the sheriff.”

During his career, Loop says he has learned the various operations of the department.

“I have done everything there that you can do at a small agency. I have been a detective. I have worked narcotics,” Loop said, adding that he has been appointed to chief of police under two different sheriff’s administrations.

Loop said that only experience can prepare a person to efficiently serve the community as sheriff.

“I think it is important to have the experience, so when issues come up you’re not wasting time, energy and resources trying to figure it out,” Loop said. “I think that is going to be more efficient than someone trying to learn on the job that hasn’t been there, and I am the only one who can bring that experience to the table.”

And, Loop has not waited to be elected sheriff to make an impact on the department.

He said he has helped implement programs and, as a training officer, he has assisted new officers learning the demands of the job.

“I have had a major influence in the department during my time. I was a part of all the change. A lot of where we are, I was a part of,” he said. “A lot of the employees there now were hired under my watch and were trained under my program.”

Loop said he has also seen the department make technological advancements under the direction of Mills.

He said those advancements include the FCSD using computers in patrol cars, laser radar equipment and a high-tech security system at the department’s offices.

“Those types of things are there, but I think we need to embrace technology to help us save on operational costs,” he said. “I think we need to get into video arraignments, so we are not taking [inmates] up to the courts. We can minimize people and maximize technology to help defray costs and manpower where we can.”

Loop said he would work with others leaders throughout the county to combat crime and increase services to community, and he’s ready to do so no matter the time of day.

“It doesn’t matter what time of day it is,” he said. “I am on 24/7.”

DEMOCRATS

BRAD STRIEGEL

Brad Striegel, 37, Greenville, says he has learned the ins and outs of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve officer for 11 years, but that it’s his additional experiences as a county councilman and small-business owner that have given him the skills to effectively serve as sheriff.

“I believe the experience I bring is one that’s important for life outside the uniform,” Striegel said. “Being sheriff, you need to be a good administrator, a good visionary and someone that can work with the budget, and being a council member for six years and being the vice president has given me that insight.”

Striegel said running his own business has given him the ability to manage people, meet project goals and stay within a budget, and all while overcoming anticipated and unforeseen obstacles.

If elected, Striegel said he would put forth a four-point plan to minimize crime and serve the community. Striegel’s plan involves combating the rise in property crimes by treating drug addiction.

Striegel said when people are released from the Floyd County Jail, following a substance-abuse related term of incarceration, they have only limited treatment resources available. And, he wants to create partnerships with private and faith-based organizations that have a “working model” to help those fighting drug addiction.

While facilitating addiction programs doesn’t typically fall in the sheriff’s purview, Striegel said that effort would be part of his proactive philosophy.

Striegel said he would reassign officers within the agency to aggressively enforce drug laws.

“The drug issue is something that is definitely on the rise here in Floyd County, and it is ripping families apart,” he said. “So, it [proactive policing] can lower property crime in Floyd County and make it a safer place to raise a family.”

Striegel’s plan also involves keeping the roadways safe by identifying where in the county traffic violations are taking place and increasing patrol in those areas.

The third point to Striegel’s plan is farther reaching.

“It is a long-term goal of mine to add more officers to the streets and to the schools to enhance public safety with the least amount of cost to taxpayers,” he said.

Striegel said the sheriff’s office could offset the financial burden of increasing manpower through property forfeiture related to drug investigations, jail commissary and, largely, through the housing of state and federal inmates at the jail.

While the funds received by keeping the inmates at the jail are allocated by the county council, Striegel thinks he could present a convincing case to have some of the income go toward hiring officers.

Lastly, Striegel’s plan includes the sheriff’s office making a connection with the county’s middle-school aged children by reestablishing the FCSD’s Youth Camp. Before the program was suspended several years ago, Striegel said he served as its director.

Striegel said he wants to take a teamwork, apolitical approach to the office by working with other leaders and the public to provide the best service possible to county residents.

“If I help improve the quality of life in Floyd County for me and my family then, hopefully, I am doing that for others in the community as well,” he said.

JEFF TOPPING

Floyd County Sheriff Maj. Jeff Topping, 49, New Albany became a full-time officer with the sheriff’s department in 1988, and says he is now ready to serve as the agency’s top officer.

“I have 26 years full-time experience, solely with the sheriff’s department. I have progressed through the ranks and moved up to the major’s position,” he said.

As a high-ranking officer, Topping said he has gained a knowledge of the agency’s operations that has not been available to each of his fellow candidates.

“I work on a daily basis with the chief and the sheriff, and that has prepared me to become the next sheriff of Floyd County,” he said.

Topping said that interaction with the department’s brass will allow him to efficiently manage the variety of duties required by the office.

“The chief has instructed me and showed me how the budget works, and the sheriff has showed me different things within the department that most people would not know, even if they are a road officer or someone working the streets, or a reserve officer,” he said.

Topping intends to institute new initiatives at the department as sheriff, but he said with the county’s current budget restraints, the agency would do well to maintain the progress that has been made during Mills’ administration.

“There are going to be changes, not to say [Mills] is doing anything wrong because he is not,” Topping said. “In the last eight years [Mill’s tenure] we have moved forward more than we did in the first 18 years I was on the department.”

Topping said the Floyd County Council recently denied requests for additional officers and vehicles, therefore, he will focus on continuing the level of services that county residents now enjoy. Topping said that after the first of the year, with the departure of Mills, the sheriff’s office will be understaffed by three officers.

He said his experience at the FCSD will help him manage not only the police staff and budgetary matters, but also the Floyd County Jail.

Topping said the jail is its own micro-community that offers food services, which can serve 900 meals daily, an industrialized laundry operation and medical services, which treat an inmate population with an array of illnesses.

“A lot goes on in the jail that many people don’t realize,” he said. “The sheriff is not just over the police department, he is over the jail, which assumes a lot of responsibility.”

Topping said, at this time, that he doesn’t want to be too specific about all of his future strategies, but he thinks that, if elected, he will be able to save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars by tapping into not commonly known state statutes.

Topping said he will continue to give the residents of Floyd County the same commitment as sheriff that he has given for nearly 30 years as a police officer.

“You need somebody that is actually dedicated, who wants to serve the citizens, not just use [the office] as a stepping stone or for the money or the insurance,” Topping said. “I feel like I am ready to dedicate the last part of my career as a leader of the community as the sheriff. I have the knowledge, the dedication and the experience that the citizens deserve.”

 

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