Gregory lives in Lathrup Village and has a degree in criminal justice from Madonna University. He has been a member of the Wayne County Sheriff Department, Oakland County Commissioner, State Representative and State Senator.
ENFORCING GOVERNOR'S ORDERS
During the current pandemic crisis, there are a half dozen county sheriff's in the state who have announced they would not be enforcing the governor's executive orders relative to stay-at-home, social distancing, and business closures. Despite the fact that the oath of office for sheriff includes a promise to uphold the Michigan Constitution, several of these sheriffs have stated that they don't feel they answer to the governor and therefore would not be enforcing her executive orders, which have been upheld by the state attorney general and now the courts. As sheriff, would you enforce executive orders from the governor?
Yes, as the Oakland County Sheriff, I would enforce executive orders from the governor relating to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The sheriffs who have declared that they won't comply with the governor's executive orders have a duty to respect and obey the law; they do not have the luxury to select the laws that they will enforce versus those that they choose to ignore. The sheriffs who have publicly declared that they will not enforce the governor’s executive orders have in essence given the citizens in their counties permission to defy the governor's orders as well. This is not the message that the top law enforcement officer in the county should send to citizens, especially when we are literally in the middle of a battle between life and death and the governor's orders are in place to protect and save lives.
OAKLAND JAIL CONDITIONS
A lawsuit on behalf of prisoners was filed in federal court, claiming that the sheriff has not adequately provided COVID-19 safeguards for prisoners. The federal judge has basically agreed with the plaintiffs and has called for changes plus a list of prisoners and their criminal history for possible release during the coronavirus crisis. Are you familiar with Oakland County Jail conditions and should more have been done in terms of prisoner protection from possible virus infection? Should there have been a more aggressive program of releasing prisoners to avoid spreading the virus?
I learned about the lawsuit through researching and reading various reports. During my career as a deputy, I witnessed the efforts of attorneys on behalf of their clients who were inmates and grieved the conditions of the jail. During that time, I know for a fact that the attorneys worked diligently to secure remedies on behalf of their clients and filing lawsuits was generally a last resort resolution when they failed to reach an acceptable solution. The status of the court case against the Oakland County Jail and the restraining order that was implemented serves as evidence that the current Oakland County Sheriff failed to respond to the concerns of the inmates in a manner that would ensure that inmates were protected from the spread of Covid-19.
Oakland County is getting a small taste of the progressive prosecutor movement in the August primary for prosecutor, which nationally includes diversion sentencing programs rather than jail time for some crimes, lessened bail amounts or no bail amounts rather than jail time until trial, and other changes to the current system. Some say this movement will ultimately change the culture of law enforcement, moving away from hard-handed enforcement. Do you think this will impact the law enforcement part of the criminal justice equation? Is this good or bad?
The job of the Sheriff is to protect and serve the public. Progressive prosecutors, who push for more diversion programs upon sentencing, decreases in bail amounts or no bail at all, instead of the accused being confined in jail until the time of their trial, are on the path to impacting law enforcement in a positive way and one that ensures that all citizens who are accused of committing crimes receive treatment that is fair and equitable. As a country, we are moving away from hard-handed law enforcement and law enforcement professionals must adapt to and embrace these changes in order to be recognized as an ally to communities that we serve.
WHY YOU ARE RUNNING
You must think improvements are needed in the county sheriff's office or you would not be seeking office. What failings to do you see with the incumbent county sheriff and what specifically needs to change?
I’m running for Oakland County Sheriff because I am an experienced leader and I have always lead with integrity, accountability in a manner that reflects inclusivity and respect for all of the citizens that I have served. As a U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, former County Commissioner, former State Representative, former State Senator, and career law enforcement officer, I’ve been elected to and held leadership positions that afforded me public trust for decades and I am running so that I can use my leadership skills to continue to serve the citizens of Oakland County. I am running for Oakland County Sheriff because there are some areas that have not been addressed during the tenure of our current sheriff and I will ensure that these changes are implemented. These changes include deputies being a visible presence throughout Oakland County and encouraging the advancement of qualified women and minorities so that our leadership reflects the communities that we serve.
WHY VOTE FOR YOU
Tell us why voters should select you rather than one of your opponents?
Voters should elect me as the next Oakland County Sheriff because I have a history of leadership experience that has placed me at the table in a position to negotiate and bring about change on the state and county level as an elected official and within law enforcement as the leader of the sheriff's deputy union. A few of my accomplishments include: Lobbying and securing funding for secondary roads so that the sheriff’s departments across the state could increase their support of the local police departments; as a county commissioner I was instrumental in keeping Catalpa Oaks a green space instead of becoming another area of condos; as a State Representative, streamlining the absentee voting process for overseas service members; and as a State Senator, being a part of a subcommittee for expanding Medicaid to 600,000 more Michigan residents. I have a history of getting things done.
Jones resides in Lake Orion and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Madonna University, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. He has served as the chief of police in two municipalities and was a member of the Oakland Sheriff Department, and Rochester Hills councilman from 1991-1993.
ENFORCING GOVERNOR'S ORDERS
The one thing I can tell you about the decision made in Oakland County is it had nothing to do with upholding the law, and everything to do with upholding party politics. Yes, as a sworn law enforcement officer, I feel I am duty-bound to uphold the law. There have been several times throughout my career that my personal opinion has clashed with my professional responsibility. However, I swore an oath to serve and uphold the laws of the land, regardless of my personal opinions.
OAKLAND JAIL CONDITIONS
I started getting personal phone calls and texts more than two-weeks before the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the prisoners; deputies working in the jail asking for my help. Yes. I'd say there should have been a much more aggressive plan on how to handle this. It's a blatant example of bad leadership and lack of vision. If you go back and read the initial reports you'll see almost nothing is said about the deputies and civilians working at the jail, and can you remember hearing anything from the sitting sheriff? No. Per usual, when there's bad news he makes the undersheriff deal with it. As a captain at the OCSD I was in charge of corrective services and am well aware of both the conditions that existed and improvements that have been made which is why I can tell you, there is a long way to go. I would have made use of the latest technologies such as tethers and monitors to get the non-violent offenders out of the jail, which would have lowered the population, thus reducing the exposure to both prisoners and jail staff. This, along with providing the proper equipment to the jail staff and the inmates, may have deterred the Covid-19 problem the jail has experienced. Additionally, testing all the inmates and staff, and curtailing inmate visits may have also lessened the exposure, if it had been done sooner. Unfortunately, because there was no demonstrated leadership vision or even the ability to find a middle ground with the inmate's attorneys, the court is now having to provide the proper way to move forward with this situation.
It is long since time for our law enforcement officers to return to being our community guardians and not the warriors we now project ourselves to be. I have said since the launch of my campaign that it's time for a change. I don't think that could possibly be more clear. So, yes, I actively support this initiative. Locking non-violent poor people up only causes them to lose their families, their jobs, their faith in law enforcement, and other resources. It is not likely they have the resources to flee the country or the county, so we should treat them like other arrests that have the money to pay their bail. We could also hand them "appearance tickets' which was a paper arrest with your court date scheduled in the future. This would have eliminated housing a person in jail that could not afford to post their bail in the first place. I believe, with training and the adoption of new policies, law enforcement officers can be even more effective because the act of making arrests for non-violent crimes takes officers off the street. Reduce that from the equation and you have officers with more time to contribute to community engagement practices.
WHY YOU ARE RUNNING
Inclusion, transparency, social justice and community engagement. These have been at the core of the policies and programs I have established dating back to my time on the command staff with Oakland County; proven policies and procedures that worked when I was as chief of police in Sterling Heights, chief of police, fire and public safety in Ann Arbor, working for the emergency manager in Flint, and in my current role as chief of security and integrity for one of the world's largest utilities. Things I would and will change include: Promoting female deputies - there hasn't been a female deputy promoted to the rank of captain in twenty years. There was recently a shooting in Pontiac that should have been turned over to the state police or another department to do the investigation. Instead the sheriff decided to have the investigation done internally and you can't create community trust that way. One of my first steps will be to create a citizen advisory board that will work with the sheriff's office to help review patterns of misconduct, help with the monitoring and auditing of internal investigations and their findings, and make recommendations for police policies, training and services. It's the citizens of Oakland County that will help us make the needed changes. This panel will include members of the sheriff's staff, representatives from the unions and most importantly, volunteers from each of the communities that contract with the department. When I say I want our citizens involved in this new direction, I mean it.
WHY VOTE FOR YOU
There is no other candidate in the 2020 race for sheriff with my resume as an officer of the law and now more than ever I am uniquely qualified because I understand the issues of social justice as few can. I remember traveling with my grandparents in the South and having to stop outside of town because we knew nobody would let us use the public restrooms and for more than 40 years I have watched as our nation has struggled with finding a way to guarantee "justice for all.” More than just having those experiences, I have the educational background as well: Associates Degree in Police Sciences from Henry Ford College; Bachelor's Degree in General Studies from University of Michigan-Dearborn; Masters in Liberal Studies/Technology from Eastern Michigan University; Masters Educational Leadership from Madonna University; Certified State of Michigan School Administrator; graduate of the FBI National Academy; graduate of Northwestern University School of Staff and Command; graduate of the United States Secret Service Dignitary Protection Academy; currently a certified law enforcement officer; and certified fireman. My education has allowed me to teach internationally. My education, both on the streets and in the classroom, and my years of practical experiences leading and training law enforcement officers have taught me what makes bad police officers and more importantly, how to consistently create good ones. We have seen what happens when politicians are left in charge. It's time for a change, it's time to put a real lawman in the office of the Oakland County Sheriff.