The Republican candidates for Tippecanoe County Sheriff focused on the opioid crisis in their debate Tuesday night.
Multiple questions about the drug epidemic were posed to incumbent Sheriff Barry Richard, Lieutenant John ‘Woody’ Ricks and West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski.
Richard pointed toward the jail’s existing program where volunteers seek to help inmates struggling with addiction.
“We’re going to give them support in the jail as inmates,” Richard says. “And then we’re able to follow up with a support system that once they are released back into our community, they will have access to housing, to food, to employment.”
Dombkowski has been outspoken since the beginning of his campaign about treating addicts while they’re in jail. During the debate, he also said the county needs to contribute to more task forces.
“The Sheriff’s office currently doesn’t participate in all the other task forces that we work on: LPD, WLPD, Purdue University Police and the State Police,” Dombkowski says. “They don’t send anybody.”
Ricks – who also works in the Sheriff’s Department – suggested an educational approach.
“We do have to keep up with the enforcement,” Ricks says. “We do have special groups going out and trying to fight against these crimes now but [Dombkowski] is right about the prevention. And prevention can start in the schools.”
Candidates also discussed gun laws, job responsibilities and officer retention.
The two GOP candidates for Tippecanoe County Prosecutor held a tense debate, a month ahead of the primary election – with the discussion devolving at times into jabs at one another.
Incumbent prosecutor Pat Harrington called his opponent, Lafayette lawyer Earl McCoy, a liar.
“You know, once again, my opponent just likes to make stuff up,” Harrington says.
And McCoy fired back, criticizing Harrington’s trips to the Statehouse to advocate for legislation.
“That’s politician Pat for you,” McCoy says. “Tells you what you want to hear and it’s just not true.”
The two candidates mainly argued over who was better-suited to carry out the basic responsibilities of the job -- though they did agree on stricter penalties for those who use firearms to commit a crime, and they are both against the county’s eight-month-old needle exchange program.
When asked the largest issue facing the county, they were again at odds. Harrington said the drug epidemic.
“Our number of cases filed when from 986 to almost 1,600 in one year,” Harrington says. “Which poses a lot of significant challenges.”
And McCoy pointed to employee turnover in the prosecutor’s office.
“As a result, of the 70 employees they normally have, we just are left with inexperienced prosecutors,” McCoy says.
The primary election is May 8.