News and Tribune

May 4, 2014

3 Dems battle to advance in Clark County sheriff’s race

Winner will move on to face GOP’s Noel, independent Spainhour

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newsandtribune.com

CLARK COUNTY — Five candidates, each with lengthy histories in law enforcement, are vying to fill the vacancy that will be left by Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden, who is ineligible to seek another term after serving two consecutive four-year terms.

Clark County Republican Party Chairman and Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Jamey Noel is running unopposed in the Republican primary election. Retired Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Mac Spainhour is running as an Independent, and will not be listed on a ballot until the general election in November.

The only contested primary race is on the Democrat ticket between candidates Donald “Donnie” Bower Jr., Dwight Ingle and Brian Meyer.

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, may 6.

 

DONALD ‘DONNIE’ BOWYER

Clark County Sheriff Maj. Donnie Bowyer, 52, Charlestown, started his service with the department nearly three decades ago as a reserve officer.

Bowyer later worked as a corrections officer at the Clark County jail before being hired as an officer. Years later, he was promoted to the detectives division, where he continues his career as chief of detectives.

Bowyer said law enforcement is the only career path he has ever wanted.

“My heart is in the community. My heart is in the department. I have been here since 1987,” he said, adding that he has a go-to joke, which goes: “Some people join the reserve force to find out if they like police work ... well, I’m still here. So, I did.”

Bowyer said he is prepared to use available resources to give optimal services to county residents.

“I just want to see us get out there and be the best agency we can be,” he said.

He said the job of sheriff will meet any elected candidate with distinct challenges.

“The jail is going to be challenge no matter who you are when you come in here,” he said. “That is the biggest expense. Manpower is going to be challenge. The budget is going to be challenge.”

Bowyer said, if elected, he thinks that he can restructure the agency to provide the best possible service.

“I don’t want to go into specifics, but we just have some positions that we can probably move around a little bit where we would have that extra manpower,” Bowyer said.

Having worked in the jail as a patrol officer and as a detective with administrative duties, Bowyer said he is primed to effectively manage the agency.

“Going through those different factions of the sheriff’s office and seeing how different variations of the department runs, I think that well equips a person to know a little bit about the job of sheriff,” he said.

Bowyer said to provide the community with the best services possible, he would instate an open-door policy.

“You can sit behind the desk as the sheriff, but without talking to your employees who are out on the front line — actually working in the jail and working out on the street, you really don’t get the truth of what is going on,” he said.

Bowyer said community members often have much better access to what is going on in their neighborhoods, and he wants to have a have continuous discourse with county residents. An active interaction also helps community members better understand what the agency’s capabilities are and are not, he said.

Bowyer said one thing that is within the department’s capacity is to take a more aggressive stance toward crime.

“I want to be a more proactive sheriff’s office,” Bowyer said. “The crimes that take place out in the community, the [offenders] do it day to day. They get caught. They go to jail. They get told how to do it better or how to not get caught. We have to do the same thing. We have get the training. We have to be proactive, not reactive.”



DWIGHT INGLE

Dwight Ingle, 61, Jeffersonville, served as the Clarksville Police Chief for 20 years, and now he wants to serve as the chief officer of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.  Ingle has separated himself from the cast of candidates by declaring to donate his take-home salary to several charitable organizations.

“I am not in it for the money,” Ingle said of being elected sheriff.

He said he wants to serve as sheriff so he can take action against what he considers to be a small group of unscrupulous officers.

“I am in it to try and straighten out what I think is wrong with law enforcement in Clark County,” he said. “I want to stop what has been going on in Clark County by just a very few officers. I don’t think the public is being treated right.”

Ingle said he wants to work with police chiefs throughout the county to create an undercover ethics commission that goes into the community to identify improper behavior of patrol officers.

“[Some officers] think they are warriors instead of public servants,” Ingle said. “We are not at war with the public. Even though you may have to use deadly force, you are a public servant, not a warrior.”

Ingle said he has heard complaints from the community about mistreatment from officers during routine traffic stops.

“There is no reason to be mad when you stop somebody,” he said. “I think we need to change the demeanor of some officers.”

Ingle also says that he is only interested in serving as sheriff for a single term.

“Four years are all I want,” he said. “Four years, and I’m done.”

Ingle has also taken a stand not shared with his fellow candidates by vowing not to spend any money on his campaign.

“I’m not spending a penny,” Ingle said. “I have a different theory. I am the Bobby Knight of law enforcement. I’m not going to spend money to get a job. What I bring to the table, I don’t own anybody a penny. I don’t own any favors.”

While Ingle is running a unique campaign, he says he uniquely qualified to be Clark County’s next sheriff.

“Having been chief for 20 years, I had to deal with all employee relations and management of law enforcement,” he said. “There is nobody else that can say they’ve been chief for 20 years, and before that I was assistant chief for six years.”

To give the residents of Clark County the best service he can, Ingle says he’s prepared to put in extra hours — the same work ethic he brought to the CPD.

“Being sheriff is like being chief. You got to work more than 40 hours a week if you are going to do it right. I got accused of living at the police station because I spent so much time there,” he said.

While Ingle said he is well aware of the difficulties of managing the jail, allocating manpower and working with a limited budget, he also feels there is a simplicity to police work.

“It boils down to good management and treating people the way you want to be treated,” he said.



BRIAN MEYER

Clark County Sheriff Lt. Col. Brian Meyer, 52, Sellersburg says his dedicated service during a long career with the department sets him apart from the other candidates.

“My knowledge of the department, I think, is unmatched,” Meyer said. “Anything the sheriff’s office does, I have pretty much been involved in over the past 25 years.”

Meyer entered the agency as a corrections officer at the Clark County jail and was later appointed to jail commander. He was later hired as an officer and began his rise through the ranks as sergeant, lieutenant, captain and is now the deputy chief and oversees the agency’s uniform division.

“I have been promoted under every sheriff I have worked under — three different sheriffs,” he said.

Meyer said he has respect for each of his fellow candidates, but thinks his time at the department better prepares him than those coming from other agencies.

“I am not cracking on any of the other candidates, but you only learn what goes on here by being a part of it,” he said. “This is what I want to do. I have made this my career. I am not coming from somewhere else. This is where I want to be. I started here, and I want to be here.”

If elected sheriff, Meyer says he would realize a nearly life-long goal.

“You commit yourself to different things during your life, and this is what I have chosen,” he said. “This is what I do. Not only do I feel like I can benefit the sheriff’s office and the people that live in this county, but it is also something that will be a benefit to my family.”

While Meyer has the passion to lead the agency, he knows it won’t be an easy task.

“This job is unique from all the agencies in Clark County,” he said. “This job entails court security, civil process, the jail that runs right at maximum population all the time. You are responsible for the sex offender registry, maintenance of the warrants. There are just so many things that go with this job that other law enforcement agencies don’t have to do.”

Meyer said his experience at the department has prepared him for the difficult job and that he will require only a minimal learning curve.

“The duties of this office, compared to any other law enforcement agency, are tremendous. But, I have an understanding of them,” Meyer said. “I have dealt with them for 25 years, and I feel pretty confident, if I am chosen to be the next sheriff of Clark County, I can take off from day one and know what it entails.”

Meyer said he has a wide knowledge base of the technical issues related to leading the department, but he also knows the most basic element of the job.

“Police work is not about writing tickets. It is not about how many people you can arrest,” Meyer said. “It’s how can I help the people within our community.”