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Stuart Erlenbush, retired Lincoln police chief and state policeman, endorses Nichols for sheriff

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To the editor:

The upcoming sheriff's election initially put me in a quandary. I am a personal friend of both candidates. I have worked extensively with both of them over many years. I can confidently say that I probably know their abilities as police officers as well as anyone in the business. Both have strong personalities, a virtue in any leadership position.

When you look at the comparison between the two candidates, it is a no-brainer on who has the most law enforcement experience, education, leadership skills and significant accomplishments. Sheriff Nichols has 35 years of investigative and law enforcement experience. Deputy Chief Geriets touts the 11-week FBI National Academy as a pinnacle of his law enforcement education. While it is a very prestigious school, it in no way trumps Sheriff Nichols' four-year law enforcement degree from Western Illinois University, Illinois State Police Academy, ISP Criminal Investigation Academy, South Dakota State Police Academy and the myriad number of courses since becoming sheriff.

As a part of the Gee Homicide Task Force, I worked alongside Sheriff Nichols and the Illinois State Police, on a daily basis, to identify and arrest the Harris brothers for one of the most heinous crimes I witnessed in over 31 years.

Deputy Chief Geriets stated that "calling in the Illinois State Police to assist in a major investigation is standard practice for most departments, and was not special during this particular investigation."

While I am not sure what "not special" means, it was crucial to have an experienced leader who paid attention to every detail. The sheriff managed the investigation, personally directed multiple search warrants, attended numerous evidentiary conferences with the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, dealt with victims' families, arranged for blanket security in Beason, addressed the public and the media, consulted with then Assistant State's Attorney and current State's Attorney Jonathan Wright and the Illinois attorney general prosecutors, and responded to leads from all over the country via a "tip line."

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I was there. It was downright impressive to me. Sheriff Nichols brought the right agencies to the task force and provided the leadership and direction that culminated in the arrests. The Gee Task Force was the largest, most organized and directed task force ever organized in central Illinois and is now a model for all law enforcement.

Between the time of the murders and the arrest of the Harris brothers, Logan County citizens were afraid for their safety. The countless hours worked by Sheriff Nichols and the task force brought a huge sigh of relief and trust in the Gee Task Force and Sheriff Nichols.

I believe that all Logan County citizens should ask themselves if they feel safer in their homes with the knowledge that Steve Nichols is the sheriff of Logan County. Sheriff Nichols provides the leadership and experience you can trust.

Deputy Chief Geriets in his campaign literature says that "change is good." Deputy Chief Geriets is my friend and could make a good sheriff sometime down the road. To "change" for the sake of "change" makes no sense to me. It seems to me that there should be a reason for change.

Sheriff Nichols has earned your trust and support over the past 11 1/2 years. He has done nothing detrimental to running the office of sheriff of Logan County. He leads the sheriff's office by his example and has been true to his oath of office. Sheriff Nichols deserves another term as your sheriff. I ask you to join me on March 18th to re-elect Sheriff Steve Nichols.

Stuart Erlenbush
Retired from Illinois State Police
Lincoln Chief of Police 2007-2010

[Posted March 15, 2014]

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