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Sheriff Candidate's View: St. Louis County ready for a break from the establishment

ABOUT THIS PRIMARY: St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman is stepping down after 20 years and five terms. Three candidates are running to replace him: Jason Lukovsky, Gordon Ramsay, and Chad Walsh. Two of them will advance from the Aug. 9 primary to Election Day on Nov. 8. Early voting has already begun.

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay
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I have a passion for public service and law enforcement. My 29 years in policing, including 16 years as police chief, have given me the experience and leadership skills necessary to improve services for everyone in St. Louis County.

As a candidate for sheriff, my goals are reducing crime, addressing illegal drug and habitual offenders, strengthening community relationships, and supporting and recruiting public-safety staff. My goal is to make our county safer, stronger, and better.

The primary is Aug. 9. Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting has already begun.

Successful crime reduction comes through partnering. While serving as Duluth police chief, we reduced serious crime 14% through my and our community policing efforts, and we received multiple national awards. We successfully held problem property owners accountable and built the largest group of volunteers in our history to help us maintain safe neighborhoods. Things were good!

I will make sure criminals are held accountable for their behavior. COVID-19 policies have caused significant disruption to the criminal-justice system, leading to increased criminal behavior. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office’s COVID-19 policy prohibits law enforcement from bringing misdemeanor crime suspects to jail, creating a lack of accountability and lawlessness. Police throughout the county report that this policy is causing increased crime. Additionally, habitual offenders are being released early or with a “promise to appear” in court, adding to the problems.

The primary is Aug. 9. Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting has already begun.

I will continue to address the overreliance on the criminal-justice system for mental health and chemical-dependency issues. Too many jail inmates have mental illness and chemical-dependency issues. During my time as chief, we worked with the St. Louis County Board and county social services to improve outcomes by embedding a social worker with police officers. This effort was recognized for its success and importance. I’ve also partnered with EMS and social services to reduce repeat calls for service and ER visits. Additionally, we worked with housing providers to focus on housing stabilization, and the police homeless outreach team significantly reduced long-term chronic homelessness through partnerships with providers.

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Regarding employee recruitment and retention, 911 communications and the jail fall under the sheriff’s office and are facing critically low applicant numbers, high employee turnover, and forced overtime that creates employee burnout. A strategic recruiting and retention plan will be the first order of business.

Over my career, I have led through significant cases and natural disasters; have been a leader in body-camera implementation, in changing police response to mental health, and in the use of technology; and I have improved police-community relations. I was fortunate to attend the FBI National Academy and lead training for new police administrators. I also have taught policing classes at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

I had the opportunity to serve as police chief in Wichita, Kansas, a city of about 400,000, with a budget of $110 million and a staff of over 900. We enjoyed significant success with police-community relations and innovative crime-reduction efforts that received widespread recognition, including invitations to the White House from both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

I was honored to be involved in leadership and policy recommendations at a national level during the most difficult times in American policing history and sat with some of the brightest minds in public safety. I was appointed by the president to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and by the governor to the Commission on Race, Equity and Justice. I became a better leader in public safety from these great experiences.

I learned a lot there, but, more importantly, I learned home is where the heart is, and my family and I missed northern Minnesota. I live in Duluth with my wife of 25 years and two children, ages 15 and 12.

Under my leadership, the Duluth Police Department co-located with the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office with a goal to share services and save money. This has not happened. There are opportunities to do more together throughout the county with fire, EMS, and police departments to improve service. Public-safety chiefs from one end of the county to the other want change. We need a break from the establishment. It is time for a fresh, experienced perspective at the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office.

I respectfully ask for your vote to make change happen.

Gordon Ramsay of Duluth is running for St. Louis County sheriff. He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

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