January 04, 2017LAPEER COUNTY — Pride in self. Pride in Department.
Those are the standards newly-elected Sheriff Scott McKenna expects of himself, Undersheriff Jeremy Howe
and his fellow officers
during his tenure, however long it may be.
McKenna says he inherited a good department when he officially took the reins on January 1.
He acknowledges the long service of his predecessors, Sheriff Ron Kalanquin and Undersheriff Bob Bob Rapson; and the support they provided him since his election in August 2016.
McKenna says he realizes a period of adjustment is inevitable, given the duration of Kalanquin's 36-year tenure as sheriff.
Sheriff Scott McKenna responds to questions during earlier visit to Tri-City Times office. McKenna vows to continue to be accessible to residents and local media during his tenure in office.
"It's going to be a change for the department," McKenna admits, noting that all but two current Sheriff's employees were hired by his predecessor.
Regardless, McKenna intends to establish his own style of leadership from "day one."
"There are some things I want to demonstrate from the jump," he says. "And that is that I'm going to be a hands-on sheriff.
"You're going to see me out in a patrol car in our local communities. If there is a bad accident or emergency in the middle of the night, I'm going to show up. I want my people to know I have their back."
McKenna believes it is incumbent on him to establish and maintain the highest of standards, trusting that deputies will follow his lead.
"I plan to lead by example," he says. "I want to know that our people understand the importance of their role in the community and the responsibilities that go along with that."
He is confident that pride in oneself and the department can be achieved through demonstrating "professionalism, leadership and integrity.
"We need to live those qualities at all times," says McKenna. "It may require some 'buy-in' on the part of some, but that's what I'll be expecting."
Accessibility is key
Another of McKenna's goals to is to be accessible to his fellow officers and deputies, and to the public.
"I want to be accessible to our residents—to encourage communication and allow them to talk," says McKenna. "A lot of times, people just need a chance to vent.
"I also want to personalize the position; to be able to walk into local schools and to meet with the people; the staff, the students, everyone."
Yet another goal, says McKenna, is to work to break down any existing barriers between departments.
"I want to eliminate the 'us versus them' syndrome," he says. "We all have to work together to best serve Lapeer County residents. None of us can be islands unto ourselves."
Challenges lie ahead
As he indicated during his campaign, McKenna views the prevalence of opioid drug use and abuse, along with heroin, as priorities for law enforcement.
"I'd like to be able to start our own, or a county drug team; or if not, at least assign one of our people to the TNU (Thumb Narcotics Unit).
"The public needs to be educated through our parents and kids, to ensure they understand the problem, and that it exists everywhere, not just in the inner cities."
McKenna believes that not admitting there is a problem is a problem in itself.
"The fact is our towns are not overrun with drugs, but there is a serious problem," he says. "It's tough for families to talk about some things, but we need to deal with reality and take these problems head-on.
"We definitely can't sweep them under the rug," he continues. "We have to admit these problems exist and deal with them."
Other areas of concern include cyber-related crime, mental health issues that can lead to crime, and the myriad scams perpetrated against the elderly.
To some degree, McKenna believes in bucking the system in favor of one that is rooted in service and accountability.
"I know I have a lot to learn," says McKenna, "but I'm going to be focused on law enforcement—not politics.
"Instead of accepting the status quo, we need to review and evaluate and make things better if possible.
"I'm sick of hearing 'that's the way we always did it,'" he says. "Police need to be held to a higher standard. I want our people to feel proud every time they put on that uniform."
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.