Name: Richard “Rick” Watson
Office seeking: St. Clair County Sheriff
City of residence: Millstadt, IL
Campaign website: https://www.facebook.com/sheriffrickwatson/
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I’m running for office to continue safety and security for all of the citizens of St. Clair County, most importantly our youth. The youth are our future and I want them to have every opportunity to succeed. This is why I support programs such as Dare, Scared Straight, and Teen Court. Additionally, I’ve added 3 new patrol spots created for deputies on Metro; Body Scanner in the jail; Body scanner in the jail finding untold amounts of contraband; I have 39 years of law enforcement experience, including Chief of the
Cahokia Police Department and six years of positive leadership experience as Sheriff of St. Clair County.
Throughout my 39 years in law enforcement, I have always treated ALL people with respect and dignity. My opponent has not shown that same sincerity.
What qualifications do you have for this position?
-Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Illinois University
-Master’s Degree from Lindenwood University
-Chief of Police for the Cahokia Police Department for eight years
-Sheriff, St. Clair County for the past six years - where crime has gone down.
-Graduate - FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA
-Executive Board Member, Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, serving as an Investigator
-Chairman, Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board member
-Chairman, St. Clair County 911 Emergency Telephones and Systems Board
-Awarded the Illinois State Bar Association Law Enforcement Award 2014
Nationally I have earned the respect of the law enforcement community. I served on the panel for 21st
Century Policing under the administration of President Obama. I have recently been selected by the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) as an advocate. I will be going to Washington, D.C. in November to serve on their panel.
What’s the biggest public safety issue in St. Clair County and how would you address it? Our biggest public safety issue is the opioid crisis, whether it’s dealing with overdoses that occur or investigating the crimes that those who are addicted to the drugs are committing.
A majority of the crimes committed throughout St. Clair County will always have some connection to an underlying drug issue. This is one reason I continue to maintain the only drug unit that is dedicated to all communities in St. Clair County. I have instructed the St. Clair County Drug Tactical Unit to make the opioid crisis a top priority.
Even though violent crime is declining in St. Clair County, according to a crime study completed by Loyola University, we still need to maintain a professional and proactive drug tactical unit. As sheriff, I will continue to support the fight on the opioid crisis here in our county.
In April 2017, voters rejected a sales tax increase for public safety and for jail upgrades. Would you support another effort to increase public safety funding through a local tax increase? Why or why not? The public has voted on this issue twice before and each time the sales tax was rejected. I respect the decision from our community. Should the question of funding public safety through a sales tax arise in the future, I would support it only if it were the desire of citizen groups throughout the county.
I am willing to support such a proposal because it would benefit ALL public safety entities throughout St. Clair County. I believe that the best choice would be to support our law enforcement through resident and non-resident retail spending for items that are considered “non-essential”, instead of increasing our property taxes that must be paid by all homeowners.
Do you believe changes need to be made to the St. Clair County Courthouse? If so, what changes? Due to the outdated design of the courthouse, I believe the entrances and security screening areas could be updated and it would provide a safer environment for employees and citizens who are at the county building on a daily basis.
Through working with the Public Building Commission, I have supported making changes to the lobby area, which would enhance security. There is a 5-year plan currently in place to make the necessary changes for security.
I believe if we changed the entry and design for the lobby of the building, ensuring everyone would be screened at this point; it would allow the security staff to be more effective in other areas of the building.
Do you believe changes need to be made to how the sheriff’s department is run? If so, what changes? A big misconception is that the Sheriff sets the budget for the department; However, the elected members of the St. Clair County Board have this sole responsibility. My top priority is to advocate for resources needed for my department to be effective and to find prudent avenues to increase funding for our patrol deputies on the street and our correctional officers inside of the jail. Both patrol and jail staffing levels are dwindling due to declining revenue sources. We should also understand that the Sheriff’s Department cannot be used to generate revenue through enforcement or fees.
TIF districts throughout the county are costing the county budget approximately 5-7 million dollars per year. This money could be used to enhance patrol and corrections staffing as well as the need for new equipment.
The entire 2018 Sheriff’s Department budget is 10.7 million dollars. There are many expenses that are conditions of the judicial system and state law that many citizens are not aware of, such as:
-Inmate medical needs
-Equipment maintenance and upgrades
-Civil process services
-Provide airport security