Carmen Navarro Gercone: 2022 candidate for Cook County Sheriff
Occupation: Executive Clerk of Court Operations, Administration and Investigations
Previous offices held: None
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: This is the first time I am running for public office. I chose to run for Sheriff of Cook County because the violent crime in our communities, on our public transportation and on our highways, is horrifying. I am a wife, mother and grandmother. I know what the sheriff's office should be doing to keep our families safe.
We need a leader in the criminal justice system that is willing and ready on day 1 to have the tough conversations. My children are my motivation. Ensuring that our businesses can open and their employees can get to work safely motivates me. Providing victims a safe place to heal, and ensuring that the perpetrators do not roam our streets unsupervised motivates me. Serving warrants so that violent offenders do not escape the consequences of their crimes motivates me. Holding CCSO management accountable so that the taxpayers aren't on the hook for the tens of millions of lawsuits every year motivates me. Taxpayers cannot afford another four years of Tom Dart.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A: As sheriff I would bring 26 years of law enforcement experience. I rose through the ranks of the Cook County Sheriff's office and served in all aspects of the office. I ultimately led the second largest department as the 1st Assistant Executive Director of the Court Services/Civil Division. I also attended the FBI National Academy, with law enforcement professionals from around the world, and will use those resources to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and our communities. I will bring back many of the programs that were eliminated by Tom Dart and ensure that our disinvested communities receive the resources needed to support the most vulnerable of their community. I will revamp the electronic monitoring program by auditing and evaluating the equipment utilized, allocating the deputies to supervise the defendants to improve public safety, and have programs that help defendants achieve their goal of reforming and improving their quality of life.
Q: Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the sheriff's office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
A: As the 1st Assistant Executive Director in the Cook County Sheriff's office, I was responsible for Court Operations and the Civil Division. The allocation of resources, such as vehicles, radios, and safety equipment was difficult to manage because the responsibility was divided amongst several departments. There is room for creating efficiency, by centralizing similar job functions and cost savings by combining the resources of those units. As the Executive Clerk of Court Operations, Administration and Investigations for the Clerk of the Circuit Court, I currently work on budgetary items and contract negotiations. I understand how important it is to work with the union and discuss personnel issues and job functions so that finances are spent properly. I understand how the lack of planning or the lack of developing policies or training staff, can cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits. Trust is important. There will be full disclosure on day one.
Q: There's been a concerted effort within the county's criminal justice system to incarcerate fewer pretrial defendants in the county jail. Some, particularly in the suburbs, blame this for a rise in crime. Do you support these policies? If not, what would you suggest instead?
A: Unfortunately, the finger pointing amongst our current leaders in the criminal justice system has done nothing to help pretrial defendants, communities, victims or law enforcement. Police are responsible for responding to calls, investigating crimes and arresting defendants. Pretrial defendants are presumed innocent. The OCJ is responsible for placing defendants on prerelease or electronic monitoring. The sheriff is responsible for supervising defendants placed on his electronic monitoring program. Notice the focus. The entire process focuses on defendants. Who is responsible for resources in the disinvested communities? Who is providing programs for our children? Childcare and transportation so people can participate? Who is focusing on the victims and their needs? I suggest the hard road. Start from the beginning. This is a societal issue and law enforcement can not be expected to solve it alone. We need a leader in the sheriff's office who is ready to work on day 1.
Q: In July 2020, the county board passed a resolution that called for, in part, the county to "redirect funds from policing and incarceration to public services not administered by law enforcement." Did or do you support this measure and the philosophy behind it? Why or why not?
A: In July of 2020 part of my responsibilities were the enforcement of eviction orders, the service of child support orders, and the service and enforcement of Orders of Protection. At that time I did not support the measure. I felt it didn't take into account the law enforcement work that was not "traditional policing." I felt that Tom Dart was not properly allocating the staff to the areas of the office that impacted public health or safety and protected victims of domestic violence. Therefore under this measure, I felt they were being placed in further danger. I understood the philosophy, I did not have faith in Tom Dart's ability to properly manage it. Today, I know I can find the balance and get everyone to the table and give the community, law enforcement and the defendants a voice to come up with a sustainable plan that will ensure the public's safety, rebuild trust with law enforcement, and allow defendants the opportunity to grow within their community.
Q: What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
A: Protecting women. Whether they work for the sheriff's office, are a criminal justice partner, or trusted to our custody, they deserve to feel safe. They should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. And they should have confidence that the sheriff will provide an environment free of hostility and sexual harassment.