Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers & Department, “Caught With Their Pants Down”

Posted: October 31, 2010 by parchangelo in Barmore Shooting, IDOC, Local Issues, Police Misconduct, the Responsiblility of the Media

It’s been a tough year for local law enforcement. The Rockford Police Department was raked over the coals in the review findings concerning police actions taken during the Mark Anthony Barmore shooting. Now comes  the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. In Rockford, IL, it appears that the behavior of the cops is at least as immature and may be as unlawful as some of our criminals.

Longtime Sheriff Richard A. Meyers is campaigning for reelection as Winnebago County Sheriff. Meyers may have had the election in the bag until he and the department publicly pursued allegations of wrongdoing against his political opponent, Aaron A. Booker, timed at a point interpreted by many as last-minute dirty tactics by Sheriff Myers.

If so, the tactic has backfired against Sheriff Myers disastrously. An email scandal is now suddenly revealed within the Winnebago County Sheriffs Department, the scope of which is staggering.  Literally hundreds of e-mails were widely and openly distributed and shared among the deputies and supervisory staff of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department between 2005 and 2008, containing inappropriate pictures and text messages which were in some instances sexually suggestive, borderline racist, and otherwise offensive in the nature and content. Copies of these emails abound now, and just about everybody agrees that the existence and quantity of these e-mails should never have been condoned within a law enforcement agency or any other public governmental body such as the Winnebago County Sheriff’s department. The public is shocked to learn that they were and to see that apparently an “anything goes” atmosphere existed unchecked within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department for years.

Sheriff Meyers, first attempted to clamp down on the scandal. He quickly went on record to claim that he saw only one of the e-mails in 2008, and gave it to a supervisor who verbally reprimanded the individual responsible for the e-mails. The supervisor distributed an email within the Department advising all staff to desist from distributing such material and supposedly taking care of the matter. Sheriff Myers concedes that the e-mails probably did constitute sexual harassment and that he probably could have handled the matter better. He promised a reinvestigation and reassessment of the disciplinary actions taken back in 2008. Too bad, his explanation only sufficed for a couple of days before more e-mails surfaced showing incidents also happened after the 2008 warning to staff.

Since then many allegations have come out in public commenting with respect the possibility of improper behavior within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, and the Sheriff has stopped providing explanations. Personal conduct allegations have been raised against Sheriff Meyers, including nepotism and allegations that behavior by other deputies within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department similar to that attributed to Booker also occurred without disciplinary actions.   As the e-mail scandal has expanded, Sheriff Myers turned dismissive of the significance of the email scandal and began claiming that the revelations in the scandal now are political reprisal attempts by the Booker campaign or others for his Booker investigation.

We’ve gathered some of the media articles regarding the scandal within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s department below. There are a few points to be made:

The fact that these e-mails occurred and were circulated in so extensive a manner within any local law enforcement agency is inconceivable to us in terms of stupidity and intolerable.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department has allegedly been run as a personal and political fiefdom by Sheriff Meyers for 28 years. Myers has had a reputation for being tough on crime in recent years, but what does that matter when the whole department is apparently out of control and the staff is as demoralized as the media comments suggest? Obviously, serious problems do exist at the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, and the question is, will these problems be investigated and resolved?

If the timing in the events of the Booker investigation was made to coincide with the Nov 2, 1010, election, then we are incredulous that Sheriff Meyers would have allegedly attempted this tactic. If so, it would obviously show arrogance and the unawareness that a reading of the public comments shows there are many people out there who claim to be aware of wrongdoing of some nature at the Winnebago County Sheriffs Department. Relying upon them to all stay quiet about these matters would not have been too smart.

We have watched the whole local law enforcement community and Winnebago County politicos respond to the scandal erupting within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department by silence with respect to it and Sheriff Meyers, or else they declare that they have no power, oversight, or responsibility with respect to what happens within the Sheriff’s Department. Coroner Sue Fidducia even took the unwise position (in our opinion) of standing in support by Sheriff Myers during his campaign press conference which attempted to direct the public attention from the scandal. We are not accepting the message being put out by Meyers and others that this as an election issue, not a substantive issue affecting the operations and conduct of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. We are demanding that local law-enforcement ensure that an outside review is conducted to investigate and cleanup the apparently systemic problems within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. We hope the local media also fulfill their responsibility and similarly push for investigation and review.

Sheriff Meyers has been “caught with his pants down”. If any suspect responded to official questioning by concealing knowledge of a subject to the extent that Meyers has done, they would be brought up on Obstruction of Justice and Concealment charges. How can law enforcement complain about a lack of public cooperation and honesty with them when this is the behavior they demonstrate when anyone attempts to question them about their actions?

In our opinion, Sheriff Richard A. Myers is not behaving in the manner befitting a public official. He is attempting to downplay serious problems in the department which have not been resolved by him. In our opinion, Sheriff Myers does not deserve to remain sheriff of Winnebago County. Booker has been attacked for political inexperience, but he has responded with more candor (in our opinion) regarding the allegations against him and what has transpired within the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. Booker should be given the chance to reform the department because we believe that despite stated intentions, it is clear to us that Sheriff Myers will be unwilling to do so.

This matter also raises the question concerning the behavior of the individual deputies who comprise the work force of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. Do they really need to be told up front and by the public, that immature behavior during working hours will not be tolerated? This is not a message that you would hope to have to deliver to any law enforcement officer. Their behavior cannot be excused by the stressful nature of their job. When any officer charged with upholding the law and determining what constitutes lawful behavior stoops to crude humor and indulges their prurient senses on the job, then it is time for the individual to resign because his judgment is impaired and the public cannot afford it.

Just Click on each of the red links below to read the articles:

Many similarities between candidates for Winnebago County Sheriff

Dirty emails from 2007 resurface amidst heated Winn. Co. Sheriff’s race

Sheriff’s Department seems to tolerate ‘good ol’ boys’ environment

Naked women, e-mails and the good ol’ boys of the county’s 911 center

Sheriff: Use of ’07 e-mails ‘dirty campaign tactic’

Winnebago County sheriff: E-mails were sexual harassment

The department chief also says corrective action fell short

Thursday daybook: We’re on the same page; those e-mails were harassment

Winnebago County sheriff denies ordering bump to son’s score

The allegation is made by his opponent’s campaign chairman.

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