Sheriff Walter Dillinger is Fulton County's only official facing opposition in the Nov. 7 election. Dillinger, who will be running as the Democratic candidate, will face write-in candidate Chuck Dabbs, who is running as an independent.
The News asked the two candidates to answer three questions regarding the position. Their answers follow:
The News: Why are you running for sheriff?
Dillinger: I think since I started in 2005 we've made a lot of improvements within the department. I've worked to make the necessary changes. I've tried to learn from past mistakes. I think people can see the efforts and are pleased with what I've done.
The News: What are some of the major law enforcement challenges in the county and how do you plan to address those challenges?
Dillinger: We face a variety of issues, and each situation is different. We deal with crime, drugs and domestic abuse regularly. As a department we work to handle each situation appropriately and professionally.
Right now one of our biggest problems is the lack of money. Our deputies are spread very thin. I do think we do a good job despite this.
Dabbs: Presently the biggest problem is the sheriff's department itself. The lack of an intelligent and concentrated application of law enforcement procedure at all levels has created a situation which puts the public at risk. Personal observation, as well as related reports of the sheriff's refusal to investigate complaints with an open mind, reports of blatant favoritism being shown by the sheriff and deputies when it comes to enforcing the law, all have compounded the inherent problems. The sheriff needs to be a student of the law, computer literate and above personal vendettas or favoritisms. The position of sheriff is not a 9-to-5 work day. It is a 24-hour-per-day, seven-days-a-week job, which means the sheriff goes out in the middle of the night and on weekends. He does not go home at 5 p.m. on a Friday and return to work at 8 a.m. on Monday. The sheriff is the person who fills a work shift for a deputy when needed, who shows up at the office or on the road at all hours of the day and night to make sure certain things are being done properly. The department staff must be able to depend upon their boss to double check everything from the tickets written to the procedures of an investigation. The sheriff should respect and obey the law.
The News: How will you help to resolve the drug problem in the county?
Dillinger: We are trying to get more involved with the kids at the local schools. We want the youth to be educated so they know the potential threats of all drugs.
Dabbs: We are losing too many of our kids to drugs. The problem is more than just meth labs. Meth is only the most recently publicized problem. Cocaine, heroin, even marijuana is still being manufactured, sold and consumed. Prescription drugs being illegally sold and used continues to be a major problem. The problem involves more than the small time producer of these drugs. As sheriff I will go after the money behind the drugs, go after the suppliers who deal in the death of our children.
As a bail bondsman I personally often bonded someone out on drug charges several different times before they had even appeared in court on the first bond/arrest. The individual immediately returned to selling drugs in order to pay the bond and the attorney. As a sheriff I will continue the arrests, but will stress to the courts that the defendant needs his/her ability to continue selling drugs immediately limited while awaiting a court date.
Any law enforcement official who states that drugs will be eradicated is lying to the public. The sheriff and the sheriff's department are there to enforce the law in a fair and impartial manner. It is the responsibility of all law enforcement to educate the public about positive alternatives to drugs and crime. It is also the responsibility of the parents to be more alert regarding the use and control of their own prescription drugs.