I always get into a reflective mood around the end of the year as I look back not just on the past 12 months but even beyond that, and look at how my views have changed based off of what I've learned and what I've observed.
I wrote this post a few weeks before the 2010 elections. I discussed the Marion County Sheriff's race and my concern that then-Colonel John Layton was a poor choice because he may very well continue in former Sheriff Frank Anderson's footsteps. Anderson, in my view, bungled the law enforcement merger and never met a dollar he didn't love to spend. Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has written extensively about how the privatization of the management of Marion County Jail 2 has been run poorly, due in part to Anderson giving it to contractors he was connected to.
Many of my Democratic friends did not take the post very well. At the time, I stood by it.
I am glad to report that I was completely wrong in my assessment of Sheriff John Layton.
Layton has competently led the Sheriff's Department in this era and has demonstrated the role the department has in the post-consolidation era in Marion County. Two months into his first term, he was faced with a death of a female inmate in one of the privately run facilities. He launched an investigation promising reforms, much more than what his predecessor ever did. This reform ended up in closing the facility and assigning deputies to the other privately run facilities that fall under the Sheriff's supervision. Anderson said "I need to put my own people in there...to make sure things are getting done the way I would want them to be done."
More recently, Sheriff Layton has taken the lead for the county-run agencies who had much of their budgets cut from a line-item veto by Mayor Greg Ballard. This has largely been seen as a partisan move by a Republican mayor slashing the budgets of elected county-wide Democratic officials. Recently, Layton (or someone close to him) seems to have "accidentally" leaked an e-mail he sent to much of Indianapolis' political establishment where he roasts them for using the Sheriff's Department to score political points. In these budget discussions, Layton has maturely suggested that the Sheriff's Department assist the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department by taking part in some of the more dull law enforcement work such as traffic enforcement.
I'm not saying Layton is a perfect Sheriff. He once said that there is no fat in the Sheriff's budget, and I disagree with that particularly in the case of the take-home car program (and that is a problem at the city level as well). But based on his actions and what I've heard of the man, he's someone you can have a civil conversation with on what the role is of the MCSD in the post-consolidation age and he is willing to lead and fix when something is demonstrably broken. For that, I applaud him. Other elected Marion County officials should look to him to see how a civil servant should act in their official capacity.