Where They Stand: Duane Burgess, sheriff

What about your qualifications or experience makes you the best candidate for sheriff?

Started at the sheriff’s office in 1988 as a dispatcher, and worked in several areas since, including investigations, as a road officer, on the FBI Safe Streets team and narcotics. Was promoted to sergeant and worked as a supervisor on the road. When Sheriff Doug Cox took office, he was named jail commander. The sheriff manages 60 people and $4 million-plus budget. He knows the ins and outs of the sheriff’s office. Worked there since high school, and it is the only job he knows.

What are the top three law enforcement issues facing the county? How would you, as sheriff, address them?

First is opiate problem. Sheriff’s office has a great group of men and women working narcotics, and working with many other agencies. Has a narcotics background, and sees what they are doing. Technical advances have been made to do the job of taking dealers off the streets.

Second is jail overcrowding, which is a serious issue. On a recent morning, the number of inmates was at 418. Numbers keep going back up. At one point, got down to 380, but still have 322 beds. Jail needs more space for inmates, for classes, for processing inmates, to be able to do our job safely, keep employees and inmates safe. Is working with elected officials on that issue.

Third is basic crime. People need to feel safe in the county. Even though the jail is overcrowded, deputies have to do what is right, bad people need to be off the streets, so people can sleep soundly. Need to give deputies the equipment they need to do their job properly. Deputies are dedicated to their jobs and the people in the county to do what is right.

Does the sheriff’s office need more employees? Why or why not? And if so, how should new employees be paid for?

The jail still needs more employees. Have added 10 new employees during this administration. Is working well, but need to add additional employees.

Doesn’t believe the sheriff’s office needs more road officers. One area to keep an eye on is Interstate 69, and how much of the area around it will be annexed. That will affect manpower, which may have to be adjusted to keep citizens safe.

Need to look at grants, see if any are available. The sheriff’s office does a lot to save money, with not paying overtime, not spending frivolously, and not having an inflated budget. Keep doing what been doing.

In the past, county officials have debated a public safety income tax that would raise residents’ income taxes to pay for public safety expenses, including police and the sheriff’s office. Do you support this tax? Why or why not? Would you advocate for the county to enact it? Why or why not?

If tax would assist all agencies in the county, would be for it. We have covered for the city of Greenwood if they have an event, we run to their calls. If it would help citizens of the county, is for such a tax. Would have to do more research to see how much more residents would be taxed, citizens are taxed quite a bit right now.

What can the sheriff and the sheriff’s office do to reduce recidivism among people arrested in the county?

Sheriff’s office works diligently to ensure people don’t return to jail. Goes back to drug issue; you can offer all the counseling you want, until they want it, it’s not going to work. Is an issue we deal with daily. See inmates with alcohol and narcotics issues return frequently. Do have classes, Breaking Chains, AA and are starting a new class for female inmates. Volunteers of America works with inmates and their families with a new program. Others are going this direction. Want to make sure people have resources in place to help them. Greenwood City Court does a Vivitrol program, which is new, but is helping. We are looking at all options. If we had a definite answer, would be a hero. But demographics of people have changed, and it’s so different from the past.

Jail overcrowding has become a consistent problem. What is your plan to address this issue? Would you expand that jail? What is your plan for expansion? And how would that expansion be paid for?

The maximum amount for a project before a referendum is required is $15 million. The last jail referendum was voted down by a 3-1 ratio. Will work with commissioners, county council, jail committee on a reasonable solution. Jail needs to expand, remodeling won’t do anything, won’t add bed space. Do have issues to consider, such as a ratio of inmates to restroom facilities. Need a workable expansion, where can safely house inmates, from people arrested on misdemeanors to homicide. Need a facility that allows us to do our job, classify inmates, house them in proper locations. Unfortunately, taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill. Jail committee has looked for any type of grants, but we are in the same position as any other county. Public safety eats the biggest portion of the budget, but in order for people to be safe, taxpayers have to foot the bill to ensure safety.

One issue that has been pointed to as a cause for jail overcrowding is the state legislature’s decision to have the lowest level offenders serve their sentences in the county jail, rather than a state prison. Should that be changed? Would you advocate for that to be changed? Why or why not?

Would advocate for it to be changed. Probably only 30 to 40 inmates housed in the jail due to that law. Only thing state did was take their issues and lay them on the county. State has shut some prisons down due to the change. Changing the law won’t solve the problem of overcrowding, but does assist with fewer inmates. More inmates means more to feed and more people going back and forth to court.

Drugs are a significant issue in our county and around the state and nation. Some officials have estimated that 90 percent or more of the criminal activity here is in some way tied to drugs. And for some inmates, jail time may give them a chance — even forced — to get sober. Should the county offer them resources during a time where they may have a significant impact? Do you favor offering rehabilitation or drug treatment programs? Why or why not? Do you favor having certain areas of the jail dedicated to housing drug addicts, where they can receive specialized services? Why or why not? What else should the county do?

Believes we can offer more programs to these individuals to assist them. Sometimes they work, if an inmate wants to receive help. Sometimes being in jail adds to their association list, builds up contacts. Some people get into system and can’t get out, because of who they associate with. Are people who do come to jail and sober up and change. But a lot of people don’t. Drugs in community means crime in community, burglary, breaking into cars. Addicts will do anything they can to get narcotics. Continue with steadfast approach on fighting crime. Be proactive, not reactive, and continue to be diligent and work together, with one common goal, to get bad guy off the street. Some people are not in jail long enough to complete the program, unless court ordered. And also need to have enough manpower to provide classes.

With 90 percent of inmates with chemical dependency issues, would be hard to have one section of the jail dedicated to those people, because such a large number of inmates are drug dependent. Some type of dependency caused this. Is something to look at.

Would like to look into having task force or interdiction team. Other agencies are doing this and making busts. Been involved in those incidents in the past as part of FBI Safe Streets program. Got I-69 coming into county, and just the same as I-65, it will be a roadway for narcotics to go north and south. People need to know if they come here with narcotics, they will go to jail and face a stiff penalty.

Mental health issues are also common with inmates at the jail. What, if anything, should be offered to jail inmates to try to address that issue? How should it be paid for?

Have a 40-hour-per-week mental health professional working at the jail. Interviews inmates, tries to address issues, tries to help them find the help they need. Mental health is a large problem at the jail. Inmates need help, but is nearly impossible to get the help they need. For someone with a violent past or crime committed, is virtually impossible to get help. Worked with one individual where it took four months to find a placement for services. Jails are the new mental health providers, because they house these individuals. You see it, talk with them, is sad to hear their stories. If they could get the appropriate care, maybe wouldn’t be in place they are in. Cost is a big issue of why they can’t get help.

What is your philosophy for the public release of information regarding all incidents, crimes, investigations and accidents? How and when should information be released and what internal setup would you have to make sure the public is aware of all crime and safety issues?

If he receives a request for public information, addresses it immediately. Does take time to get that information. If information is being used in a criminal investigation, it won’t be released, but he would address that. Sheriff’s office has done great job releasing information on break-ins, scams, etc., will continue to use social media and local media. Would continue to have open relationship with the media, is important. Lets constituents know we are doing our job. Have we made mistakes? Yes, and we address those. Is not scared to let people know what occurs and will continue to inform them.

Will you discipline officers found breaking traffic or criminal laws? Will they be charged or ticketed like everyone else? What would you do if an employee or deputy was suspected of criminal behavior?

We have two types of employees, civilian and merit. Same action would be taken with both, but a different process. If employee commits criminal offense, would open an investigation, get all information brought against employee. If wrongdoing found, would deal with that in swift, timely manner. With merit deputies, have to follow certain rules. Is not going to cover for anyone. If employee commits crime, whether that is speeding, criminal, etc., they go through the same process as any other citizen.

Should deputies have ticket, traffic stop or public interaction quotas? For example, a quota might be that a deputy must make five stops or issue five tickets a day. Why or why not? How would you monitor the productivity of sheriff’s deputies? What is acceptable and not acceptable productivity?

Is an expectation of officers to go out and work traffic. If a deputy works a month and has written zero tickets, might be an issue. Not disciplinary, but have conversation. Traffic enforcement is important as congestion increases. No certain amount of tickets; is against law to set quotas. But should have expectation to go out and do job to best of their ability. Is monitored now, will continue to be. Officers are monitored by statistics, which are monitored by supervisors. If officer turns in zero tickets, that is a problem. If officer is doing job, will see that in tickets, arrests for DUI, driving while suspended. Expectation is to go out and do their job.

Police departments across the nation have purchased military-style equipment, including tanks and other armored vehicles. Some have questioned whether local departments need that type of equipment and whether that is the best use of tax dollars. The sheriff’s office currently has a former military armored vehicle and M-16 rifles. What else, if anything, do you think is needed?

Right now, we are good with equipment we have. Do have armored vehicle, used by SWAT team and other purposes. If we have to get family members out of a house, can use that to get them out or to safety. Could use with school incident, to help get kids away. Flooding incident, can move and transport vehicles. Had M16s, didn’t want taxpayers to be burdened with buying every officer a new rifle. Those items have become good tools for local law enforcement, saving taxpayers money. Always looking for equipment, and if it is available and we can use it, will try to obtain it.

Who will you appoint as your chief deputy, chief of investigations and commander of the road officers? If you haven’t made that decision, what process would you use and what are you looking for in those leaders?

Has not made that decision. Will look for individuals who can lead, work with employees, do a good job in those divisions, are outstanding employees in those areas. Have to look at those people who know the day to day processes, individuals your employees respect and are willing to follow. Have a lot of good leaders, will be a difficult task, but there are several people he would like to talk to about certain positions.

What, if any, changes need to be made to best patrol White River Township, where the majority of the sheriff’s office constituents live?

We do a good job patrolling White River Township. Need to continue to be visible, continue to work with people there. People also need to report crimes when they happen, so they do not go undetected. Information helps us, shows us criminal patterns, could be connected with another neighborhood, tie cases together. Wants to continue to work with other agencies, trade information. Is busiest area in the county, need to continue to be visible in those areas.

Under what circumstances would you ask the state police to investigate crimes instead of the sheriff’s office?

If have incident that involves employees, would call in outside agency. If incident occurs in jail, such as an inmate death, want another set of eyes to come in and look and make sure no wrongdoing. Working large case and need more manpower, has no problem with asking state police or federal investigators for help. To ensure doing job properly and doing what’s expected of us.

What will you do to avoid conflicts of interest? What conflicts of interest would you have, if elected? Do any of your relatives or friends work for the sheriff’s office? Would you ever hire a relative to work at the jail or for the sheriff’s office? Why or why not?

Will follow county guidelines. Has no children to hire, no brothers or sisters. Does have relatives who already work for sheriff’s office who are exceptional employees that do their job. If have a relative who wants to come in and apply, can’t stop them from applying, but they will go through the merit process and will follow county guidelines. Doesn’t have any conflicts.


Name: Duane Burgess

Party: Republican

Residence: Greenwood

Family: Wife, Dee Ann

Occupation: Johnson County jail commander

Educational background: Center Grove High School graduate; graduated from Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, Indiana Law Enforcement Academy Chief School and FBI National Academy

Political experience: None

Memberships: Indiana Sheriff’s Association, Master Mason – Union Village Lodge #545, Murat Shrine – Indianapolis, Johnson County Shrine Club (past president 2012), Johnson County Mini Mystics, Murat Shrine Fireman’s Club, Murat Shrine Police Club, and Fraternal Order of Police – Johnson County Lodge #154.


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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.