State Rep. Brian BeGole on Tuesday testified before the House Elections Committee on a plan ensuring people across Michigan will have county sheriffs with experience.
Currently, the only requirement to run for county sheriff in Michigan is to be a registered and qualified elector in the county in which election is sought by the filing deadline. House Bill 4981 would require candidates to be a licensed law enforcement officer or a certified corrections officer with at least five years of experience, unless they are currently serving as a sheriff.
BeGole, who has 32 years of law enforcement experience including six as a county sheriff, said additional relevant experience should be required to make sure communities and residents have a countywide official who can handle the many expectations that come with the job.
“Cities, villages and townships would not hire someone to serve as their police chief who is not a certified police officer, so why should a county be any different?” BeGole said. “This job comes with a lot of responsibility and liability with duties such as road patrol, 911 central dispatch, jail operations, homeland security and emergency management, animal control, and more. These can involve life and death situations. It makes sense to have experience in these areas to reduce liability issues and ensure critical services will be effective and available for people.”
“The office of Sheriff is a highly visible and important office. It is imperative that the wants of an individual who doesn’t possess the appropriate training and experience to hold that position do not outweigh the needs of the office, the law enforcement officers that provide public safety, and the community members for which it is tasked to serve,” said Michigan Sheriffs’ Association Deputy Director Dan Pfannes when testifying in support of the legislation.
BeGole also said not changing the requirement will lead to departmental employees leaving prior to elections because of uncertainty regarding whether they’d be working in a department under someone without proper certification or experience.
“These departures will cause a ripple effect with vital services these departments provide across our communities,” BeGole said. “A drop-off in employees means a drop-off in services. The current requirement is an accident waiting to happen, and my plan prevents unintended consequences that this could create.”
The plan remains under consideration in the House Elections Committee.
PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Brian BeGole provides testimony on House Bill 4981 before the House Elections Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
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