Tags: County Report
July 15, 2014 | 01:38 PMELKHORN — After 19 years in the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department, Ken Brauer said it’s time for some change. The sheriff’s deputy is running for sheriff. Sheriff David Graves is retiring after this term.
Brauer will face Undersheriff Kurt Picknell in the Aug. 12 partisan primary. Both are running as Republicans.
Brauer said he’s worked in most of the divisions in the sheriff’s department, from corrections staff in the jail to court security and the drug unit.
Since 2011, he’s been on the patrol unit.
“When I came to patrol from court (security), I saw a lot of disgruntled employees,” Brauer said.“The department is a good place to work, but it can be better. It was about five or six years ago that I started thinking about the changes the department needs.”
Brauer said with Graves’ retirement, now was a good time to run.
“The incumbent always wins in Walworth County,” he said in an interview July 9.
“Right now, there are no leaders, and there is no communication on decision making. It’s time to change some things around.”
One of Brauer’s big goals is to increase public communication from the department.
“I think we can better provide a service to the public if we’re communicating with them,” he said. “We could be using social media. I know there are pitfalls to social media, but it can help. When we have road closures, we could be posting those updates on Twitter and Facebook.”
Brauer also wants to connect with the youth in the county.
“I’ve always been a coach for local teams,” he said. “I don’t see why the sheriff’s department couldn’t sponsor a team. I want kids to feel safe. I want them to know they can come to us.”
The department used to have youth programs, but they’ve been eliminated in recent years, Brauer said.
“We had the Explorers program for community service for young adults,” he said.“I think we could bring that back along with creating citizen academies. Most people only know what we do from what they read in the paper. They don’t really know what it’s like. We could create the citizen academies to teach people how the department works.”
Brauer said if communication with and from the public increases, the law enforcement part of the sheriff’s department job would be easier.
“We need community involvement,” he said. “The true definition of our job is to protect and serve. The sheriff was designated for that in the (state) constitution.”
Currently, Brauer said cops are rated as good or bad based on numbers — citations and revenue.
“It shouldn’t be just about the numbers,” he said. “It’s hard to evaluate contacts with the public based on numbers. We need to get away from the numbers game.”
The stereotypical idea of a sheriff’s deputy should change, too, he said.
“Our role is not to bring in revenue,” Brauer said. “It’s better to have voluntary compliance of laws than to give out tickets.”
Brauer said that doesn’t mean the deputies should never give out tickets.
“There are people that deserve tickets,” he said. “Not everybody does. We need to get away from looking at the sheriff’s department as a revenue generator.”
Along with voluntary compliance, Brauer said often law enforcement is too late to a situation to help stop it from occurring.
He said the increased use of heroin in the county is troublesome, but it’s not something law enforcement can handle themselves.
“We’re fighting to make up time,” he said. “People start on the prescription drugs ... they go doctor shopping to keep getting more prescriptions. Then they find that heroin is much cheaper. I think we need to get doctors to look at other treatments at the beginning.”
Brauer said sometimes jail is the best place for those addicted to the drug. If they need to detox, they can do it in jail, he said.
“Really it’s about education,” he said. “Way before high school, kids need to know about the danger. Kids are a lot smarter than you’d think.”
“I wish it wasn’t political at all,” Brauer said of the sheriff’s position. “You have to play, though, to be elected in Walworth County. I’d rather see a cop than a politician in the office.”
Brauer said he does have opinions on political issues, but it usually doesn’t affect the job of the sheriff.
“To run the department, you have to remove those (opinions) from your line of sight,” he said. “We’d see a lot of good changes to the department if a cop is back running the department. Right now, the administration is so far removed from how the rest of the job is done.”
Brauer said the department should be a cohesive unit.
“Right now, there’s no foresight, there’s no discussion on decision making,” he said. “Basically, the administration is on the side of the county board, instead of fighting for what the deputies need.”
Brauer said many of the longer-tenured deputies are retiring as soon as they are able, where in the past they’ve stayed on longer.
“There’s no reason to come to work every day and be miserable,” he said.