After Mike Sharp resigned in disgrace last spring, retired Kansas City Chief of Police Darryl Forte was appointed by County Executive Frank White Jr. as interim sheriff of Jackson County until the Nov. 6 special election.
In August, county party leaders nominated Forte, a Democrat, and Republican David Bernal of Lee's Summit as the candidates for the special election, and the winner will serve the final two years of Sharp's term. Both candidates have said that, if voters approve the particular County Charter change, they would be willing to take on the challenge of running the county jail.
The Examiner asked the two candidates a couple questions, and there responses are given below:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what compelled you to run for office?
David Bernal: I have 37 years of law enforcement experience – 13 as an officer with Kansas City Police Department and 24 as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
I decided to run in this special election for Jackson County sheriff after the disgraceful resignation of former Sheriff Mike Sharp. I am a lifelong resident of Jackson County, with the exception of 12 years while employed by the FBI. I’m concerned about the negative influence machine politics are having on our community. I’m stepping forward hoping the voters of the county (regardless of party affiliation) will recognize that when elected, I will serve them responsibly, professionally and mostly importantly, with accountability.
I want the voters to know that I have the experience, initiative and commitment necessary to provide professional nonpartisan leadership to all county citizens and personnel of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. I’m running because I care about my community. I have no further political aspiration or need for personal fulfillment. Rather than just complaining, I’m stepping forward motivated only by a sense of service.
Darryl Forte: I was born in the heart of Jackson County in Kansas City and raised by a single mother with four siblings. I have earned degrees from Penn Valley Community College, Park University and Baker University. In October 2011 I was appointed chief of police of the Kansas City Police Department, retiring after serving as chief for nearly six years. My career spanned 31 years with KCPD.
My strong desire to continue to serve our community compelled me to run for sheriff of Jackson County. Often, I am asked why I did not remain retired, I simply answer with, “I care.” I am from a family who cares and are passionate about serving others. My wife of 31 years is a school principal, my oldest daughter is a teacher and my youngest daughter is a behavior coach. It is all about serving.
What are the three biggest issues or priorities facing the department, and how do you hope or plan to address them?
Bernal: The first issue/priority I would emphasize as the sheriff is leadership. The resignation of Mike Sharp has resulted in diminished public trust and confidence in the department. I have no doubt the men and women of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office continue to serve the public faithfully and honorably. They need a leader who exhibits respect for them and for the public they serve. I would work diligently to guarantee the citizens of the county and personnel of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office always recognize my leadership as representative of their expectations for a professional manager. Integrity in office will be my foundation.
A second issue which I believe needs to be addressed in the Sheriff’s Office is the negative influence I believe politics likely play in its operation. In my opinion, the position of sheriff should not be affiliated with a political party, but should be nonpartisan. The sheriff serves ALL the citizens of the county. Since and before I announced my candidacy, I’ve heard much about the alleged “political” nature of employment within the Sheriff’s Office. As sheriff I would ensure that the daily operation of the Sheriff’s Office is serving all county citizens without political influence or favoritism. Similarly, personnel of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office can be confident that as sheriff, all assignments and promotions within the department would be based on merit and qualification.
As a candidate in this special election, I have heard from citizens residing in unincorporated areas of Jackson County, one primary complaint. In their opinion, they believe there is a serious lack of law enforcement representation in their particular communities. Jackson County is approximately 607 square miles in area. The Sheriff’s Office works in cooperation with multiple law enforcement agencies within the county. I would ensure that service and representation by the Sheriff’s Office is provided equitably in all territory within the county.
Forte: The safety and emotional well-being of Jackson County Sheriff’s Department personnel is of paramount importance to me. We cannot provide exceptional customer service if we are not safe and well. We are implementing a department-wide wellness program. Two dedicated employees have volunteered to spearhead the program which will, in part, consist of physical, mental and emotional fitness.
There is no way for me to prioritize other issues that must be addressed because they are equally important and are being addressed simultaneously. Supervisor training, community policing, policy development, inventory control, risk management, succession planning, subordinate development and fiscal accountability. Last week I convened a 5:30 a.m. mandatory sergeants meeting where I shared my expectations and administered a test over written policies and procedures. The test allowed an opportunity for the sergeants to work as a team. Several community groups and the department are in the first phase of implementing community policing practices.
Several policies (take-home vehicles, domestic violence, sex offender registration) have been developed or revised. An outside auditor will conduct an inventory control audit. A few months ago commanders (upper management) were tasked with conducting a risk analysis of their department’s. Succession planning is akin to subordinate development. We are identifying and encouraging future leaders by providing them with opportunities to demonstrate weaknesses and strengths. Fiscal accountability is being monitored by management staff with instruction to identify cost reduction measures that won’t impact service levels.
Bernal’s campaign has taken in $15,378.09, including $1,500 loan from himself, and spent $9,447.59.
Top contributors included:
• $5,000: Jose Bernal, Kansas City.
• $2,000: Michael Bernal, Tucson, Ariz.
• $1,000: Ted Barnes, Independence; Robert Sullivan, Lee's Summit; Jackson County Republican Club.
• $500: David Fletcher, Lee's Summit.
Forte’s campaign has taken in $34,960, including $14,050 in loans from himself, and has spent $21,315.74.
Top contributors included:
• $5,000: St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council PAC; Jackson County Democratic Committee.
• $1,000: Lisa Pelofsky, Kansas City; Hotel Partners, Kansas City; Gary Marvin, Leawood, Kansas.
• $750; Construction & General Laborers Local 264.
• $500: John O'Connor, Kansas City; Matthew Roney, Lee's Summit; Greater KC Building & Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO; Austen-Dooley Company, Lee's Summit; UAW Region 5 Midwest States; Superior Moving and Storage; Bill Gautreaux, Kansas City.