Macomb CountyJune 26, 2012
Two Macomb residents vie to be sheriff
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and his opponent for the Democratic nomination, retired Lt. Greg Stone, have lots in common.
Both have lived their entire lives in Macomb County and still call the Macomb Township home. Both have spent multiple decades with the Sheriff’s Office. Both worked other jobs before starting their careers in law enforcement. Both have salt-and-pepper hair.
But Stone says the county’s top law enforcement position has become too political. And for that reason, he has decided to challenge Wickersham in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary election.
“I was asked by a group of individuals from the Sheriff’s Office to come back and run for sheriff,” Stone, 58, said. “When friends ask you for something, it’s hard to say no.”
Stone retired in June 2011 after 35 years of service in the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office. “They want the politics out of the police work, and that’s what I said I’d do. I’m not a politician.”
Stone acknowledged that it’s an elected position, but said that doesn’t mean the position should be political.
“I’ve seen other sheriffs that are voted into office, and it still remains a police agency and not a political club,” Stone said. “I want patrol officers to go out there and do their job.”
Wickersham disagrees with Stone’s assessment. “I’d ask him ‘What’s political about this?’” said Wickersham, 50. “I worked my way up. Everybody in this facility, I’ve done their job. “
Wickersham has been with the department for 26 years and was appointed two years ago to be the county sheriff after former sheriff Mark Hackel won election as county executive.
Growing up in Warren, Wickersham’s first job at 18 was helping his mother and father run their restaurant. After a year and a half of long workdays, he decided the restaurant business was not his passion. He enrolled in Macomb County Community College, got his associate degree in law enforcement and subsequently got a job with the sheriff’s department.
He considers keeping the department moving forward, even with a strict budget, his greatest accomplishment since taking the office.
“In these tough economic times I’ve been able to manage the financial aspect of the operations without affecting public service,” he said.
In the next four years, he said, the biggest challenge for whomever is sheriff will be dealing with an aging county jail that in 2009 cut the number of beds available from 1,438 to 1,238 for budgetary reasons. “And that was only a temporary fix, and that is slowly becoming a permanent thing,” Wickersham said.
Meanwhile, he said, the county is growing in population. “We need to increase our capacity to be able to handle future growth.”
He said the county also could reduce the number of inmates inside the jail by reducing repeat offenders. Wickersham said following strict jail rules reinforces in inmates the type of behavior needed to keep them from re-offending. “The goal is to get compliance and reduce the recidivism rate,” he said.
Stone, who spent much of his career in corrections, said he would institute a yearlong work program, allowing young prisoners who have three- or four-year sentences to be released early upon completion.
“If I have them for a year, maybe they won’t come back,” Stone said. “Let me try to change that behavior.”
His philosophy on rehabilitative law enforcement comes, he said, from decades of talking to prisoners and arresting suspects.
One particular arrest stands out from when he was in the sheriff’s detective division. A suspect broke into a Bruce Township home and stole only the husband’s clothing. When Stone arrested the suspect, it was a boy living in an abandoned home. He was stealing the essentials he needed.
“I hope he took advantage of the system and got an education, so he wouldn’t have to go back again,” Stone said. He never did see the boy again, something he considers a good sign.
Stone said that if elected he’d extend the relationship between local police departments and the Sheriff’s Office by encouraging the consolidation of services, such as SWAT teams.
He added that he wants to have built a holding station in south Macomb County communities in which to house those making court appearances in Warren or Sterling Heights the next day.
“If we transported those prisoners down to the southern station the night before and had those officers go right there and pick up those prisoners, you know what, they could be in court in 10 minutes,” Stone said. “They wouldn’t be driving from Mount Clemens to the southern part of the county in the morning.”
Wickersham said he already has a great working relationship with local departments, meeting weekly with the police chiefs and discussing the kind of crimes surfacing in each community.
“What we usually find is that the communities share some of the same problems,” Wickersham said.
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