Two experienced candidates vying for Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office

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Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:36 AM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - A new sheriff will be elected this November in Vanderburgh County.

Current Sheriff Dave Wedding made the decision to not seek reelection, which opened the door for two experienced candidates.

Democrat Noah Robinson has spent over 20 years working at the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office.

His opponent, Republican Jeff Hales, has 10 years of military experience and spent 20 years working with the Evansville Police Department.

Both candidates agree the sheriff’s office is well run, but each sheriff makes his or her own mark on the office.

The candidates share similar opinions on guns — the county needs to cut down on gun violence, but they don’t want to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.

“I’m alarmed at the number of gun related homicides or homicides in general we’re having inside the city, so as sheriff I’m not gonna be content to sit back and work one homicide a year out in the county,” Robinson said. “I’m going to assign a sheriff deputy to the ATF gun task force, and start cracking down on some of these illegal gun sales and straw purchases that are fueling some of this gun violence in the city.”

“I’d want to put a crime prevention unit in the sheriff’s office,” Hales said. “It would be a two person unit. They’re going to focus a little bit more on the neighborhoods themselves and find out where the crime trends are, like breaking into cars, breaking into houses. Things like that.”

Another issue facing the county is drug use. Overdose deaths have increased in Vanderburgh County each of the last two years.

“I believe in strict drug enforcement when it comes to dealing,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to have dealers feeling like they can get away with impunity. Fentanyl is killing people, and if you’re out there dealing fentanyl, you need to be in jail.”

Robinson says he doesn’t necessarily believe in locking people up on long jail stents who are in possession of drugs. He says he believes there are better ways to help drug addicts.

Hales believes in transparency and cohesion between law enforcement in Vanderburgh County. He thinks that could help solve key issues, like drug use.

“My stance has been on a lot of this is listen to the people in corrections, they have some ideas for the jail, listen to the detectives, listen to the JTF guys, listen to those people and take their ideas and see if we can run with them,” Hales said.

Hales and Robinson both want the sheriff’s office to be more involved in the community.

Robinson wants to start a program that gets deputies out in neighborhoods on beats.

“It’s going to breed I think a lot more connectivity and a lot more trust with residents who are in neighborhoods, they get to know deputies that are in the area and we’ll have a lower rate of crime as a result,” Robinson said.

Hales wants to assign deputies to crime prevention task forces. He believes maintaining a presence will help reduce crime.

“The more you’re active and the more you’re checking on people that shouldn’t be in an area at a certain time of the night or a certain time of the day, or whatever it may be, if you’re checking on them, being interactive within the community, it could lessen the more violent crimes,” Hales said.

The two candidates differ greatly in their opinions on federal agencies.

Hales believes federal agencies overreach into the states, while Robinson welcomes the partnership.

“I do have a problem with the upper tiers of our federal government. I think they’re overreaching way too much into the states,” Hales said. “You’re seeing in the past few years, especially in the past few years because it’s being exploited. I do believe that there is corruption within our higher tiers of our FBI, our justice system, the IRS. I’ve read enough and learned enough and watched enough to believe there is some corruption there.”

“I’ve never felt like the FBI, the ATF, the IRS have come into Evansville and taken away our jurisdiction. We are all partners in this,” Robinson said. “We have deputies assigned to various federal task forces, including the ATF task force, the FBI task force as well as the US Marshal service. I’m going to maintain those partnerships, because quite frankly they benefit from it even more than we do.”

School safety has been a hot topic over the past several years, perhaps no more so than now.

The two candidates spoke on the need for the sheriff’s office to have a role in school safety decisions here.

It is up to the voters of Vanderburgh County to decide what future they want for their sheriff’s office, by going out and voting in November.

“I think you can easily look at my experience,” Hales said. “My 10 years military experience, my opponent does not have that. Five years working in the jail, my opponent does not have that. Six years in crime prevention, my opponent does not have that. Six years as a detective, my opponent does not have that.”

“Over these last 20 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to effect the culture of the agency, and we’ve got a good sheriff’s office,” Robinson said. “I’ve learned the agency from top to bottom, I’ve never been one to sit there and remain stagnant at my post.”

While they each have unique backgrounds in law enforcement, both candidates represent and experienced choice for sheriff.