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Behind The Badge: The Race For Winnebago County Sheriff

Both candidates spent years in law enforcement.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY - The race for the Winnebago County Sheriff republican nomination gearing up ahead of the election.

Current Sheriff Gary Caruana facing off against his former Chief Deputy Kurt Ditzler in a race that is all about balancing the budget, reducing crime, and jail staffing. This all comes after inmates sued over excessive lockdowns.

"I think lockdowns are an effective inmate and personnel management tool," said Ditzler.

"This is where he doesn't understand corrections. He was in that position as title, but he doesn't understand it," said Caruana.  

Ditzler and Caruana are both law enforcement veterans clashing over ways to bring down crime in the county.

"When you take a look at 2016 for example, the crime rate in Winnebago County is up 25 percent," said Ditzler.  

Caruana acknowledges the spike, but says that's due to his office making more arrests.

"In 2016 it spiked because we were proactive in catching the people. Uniform Crime Reporting reports everything--proactive and reactive. We were very proactive in our approach," said Caruana.  

Both are at odds over the current police pursuit policy. When Caruana was first elected, he allowed deputies to chase after suspects.

"I think the one we have is reckless and irresponsible," said Ditzler.

"I am changing antiquated culture at that department. That's one of the antiquated thinking that the past administration had that we are moving slowly out of," said Caruana.  

But at the forefront of the issues is the budget after Caruana was forced to cut more than $4 million. Ditzler says he would cut programs including the K9 division to free up funds, which in 2017 cost the county less than $5,000.

"If they need a K9 officer and there's not working today, they will call one from another agency," said Ditzler.  

But, Caruana says the K9 program earns enough to cover that cost through seizures.

"Our tracking currently is 47% effective in tracking bad guys, the national average is 20%. You talk about being affective. We have assisted other agencies 343 times," said Caruana. 

The primary is March 20.


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