August 16, 2010

Racine County Sheriff's race heats up; Gonzalez, Schmaling exchange barbs

Racine County Sheriff candidate Gonzalo Gonzalez ripped one of his opponents in an open letter on his website after the opponent claimed Gonzalez was "tucked away" from the public.

Chris Schmaling, a Racine County Sheriff's Department investigator, made the claim in a fundraising letter he widely dispersed throughout the county. The letter read: “Gonzalez has spent much of his career tucked away in the jail, essentially removed from citizens of the community, victims of crimes and routine patrol functions.”

Gonzalez took offense to the comment, saying it insulted the Racine County Jail's staff, which works with the public on a daily basis. He also attacked Schmaling back, saying the investigator had a "narrow range" of law enforcement experience, never held a supervisory position in the Sheriff's Department and did not have the academic credentials to overcome the shortcomings.

Schmaling, Gonzalez and Ron Molnar are running for the Republican nomination for sheriff in a Sept. 14 primary election. The winner will face Democrat Joseph Buckley and Independent Jeffrey Gerrietts.

Here's Gonzalez's response to Schmaling's letter:
I wouldn’t normally respond to specious claims, but beyond the direct attack on me, the inferences made by Schmaling spill over into an entire division of hard working people that remain silent but should have a voice.
Over the course of my law enforcement career I’ve had the good fortune to experience a broad range of assignments and each has contributed it’s own unique dimension to my professional development. During my 26-year career on the Racine County Sheriff’s Department I have served in the jail, on patrol, in community policing, in selective enforcement, as the Sheriff’s Department training officer, as a hostage negotiator, as well as in a brief undercover drug assignment prior to my first uniformed assignment. I was promoted into the supervisor ranks twice and I’m currently assigned to the jail as a Sergeant. I’m on the Lieutenant’s promotional eligibility list and I earned my Bachelor’s Degree, with honors, from UW-Parkside in Criminal Justice. Prior to entering law enforcement, I served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Today, I serve in the jail largely by choice. The jail is the largest single division within the Sheriff’s Department and the largest consumer of budget resources. It also offers one of the most intense management challenges on the department. Far from being removed from the citizens of the community, the jail operation offers a unique, multi-disciplinary environment that operates 24/7 on a real time basis. Few are as keenly aware of the community and its problems than the people who serve as gatekeepers. It’s the jail, and those of us serving within that see the tangible outcome of crime in a quantifiable measure.
We see the face of crime day in and day out. We understand first hand the impact on lives and the toll both socially and financially—uniquely unlike any other division within the Sheriff’s Department. Criminal investigations, although an important part of the Sheriff’s Department mission, remains one narrow aspect of the broad range of services the Department provides. Long after the luster wears off and the case is closed, the human toll remains in our care and we continue to manage the aftermath of crime in our community.
With one deliberate stroke of the pen, Schmaling has marginalized the single largest division of the Sheriff’s Department.
He has essentially asserted that the hard working sworn, corrections, administrative, healthcare and civilian staff at the Racine County Jail perform perfunctory jobs that are less important than that of the investigator. Schmaling’s rhetoric is divisive. By all accounts he’s a good investigator but, within law enforcement, and certainly within the Racine County Sheriff’s Department, he has no other credible claim. Beyond his initial front line experience as a jail deputy and a brief transition through patrol after promoting to investigator, his narrow range of law enforcement experience ends there. He has never held any supervisory position in the Sheriff’s Department nor does he have the academic credentials to mitigate these voids.
- Gonzalo Gonzalez