DuPage sheriff hopeful identifies urgent need for change
James Mendrick says his run for DuPage County sheriff is all about making much-needed change, from working with other department heads in modernizing the department’s tactics to starting a mental health diversion program to help deal with nonviolent offenders.
"The program would start by having deputies trained to identify mental illness," Mendrick, who is currently commander of control, told the DuPage Policy Journal. "After that, we would have resources in place to get an official diagnosis and, when appropriate, the person would be referred for care instead of incarceration. It's a much more cost-effective way of doing things for taxpayers."
Mendrick's other ideas include ridding the department of politics and turning to a proactive style of policing that engages more citizens.
“I’ve been a part of the department for 21 years, and my adage has always been, if you treat people well for a long time, you earn their respect,” Mendrick said. “I’m proud that I have the backing of the men and women in blue. I work for them. I’ve been a deputy, lieutenant, watch commander and administrative budget chief, so I definitely know what this job is about.”
Mendrick says his unique perspective from all those years on the job makes him a natural as the department’s next leader.
“Part of bringing the department into the modern era has to be about being in better step with the community,” he said. “I would like to see a diversity program where we solicit more minority and female officers so that we are more representative of the communities we serve. I also think we need to foster better relationships with the media. I feel that can be a symbiotic relationship, where we kind of help one another be better at our jobs while serving the community.”
Mendrick said the urgency for change prompted him to announce his early decision to attempt to succeed longtime Sheriff John Zaruba, who is retiring.
“My father was a police chief in Oak Park,” Mendrick said. “Everything I learned about policing I learned from him. When he passed, he was honored by so many. I really want to continue his legacy as the next sheriff.”.