Kalvin Barrett was appointed Dane County Sheriff by Governor Evers last year, after the retirement of former sheriff David Mahoney.
A year and a half later, Barrett is running to keep the seat as a Democrat.
Barrett began his law enforcement career with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in 2009. Barrett also taught at Madison College and was the Faculty Director of the Criminal Justice Studies Program at the college.
Barrett says that his diverse professional background in law enforcement makes him a perfect fit for the role of Dane County Sheriff.
“That includes working here at the Dane County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy, I worked as a Sun Prairie Police Department officer, I worked as a Wisconsin State Fair Park police officer, and I have the academic side and experience as I was a full time instructor in the Madison College Criminal Justice Studies Program as well as the lead Defense and Arrest Tactics Instructor at the Madison College Law Enforcement Academy,” Barrett says.
Anthony Hamilton, who is running as a Republican, has been with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office since 2008. While his current role is that of a detective, he has previously worked in the Jail Division and as a SWAT member.
Hamilton also points to his experience in law enforcement.
“I have 14 years as a deputy with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, the last three of which has been as a detective, and I have always put victims as my top priority in getting them the justice they deserve. When policing based on extremist political ideas subverts that, I think it minimizes the justice we give to the victims and makes them feel revictimized,” Hamilton says.
Hamilton’s campaign motto has been “Policing Not Politics.” On his campaign website, Hamilton points to an announcement made by the sheriff’s department last year that those within the Dane County Jail will not be referred to as “inmates,” and instead as “ residents.”
Hamilton says that calling them “residents” coddles people incarcerated in the jail.
“Now, in and of itself I don’t have any real disagreement with this, except he did this as a sort of unilateral decision without meeting with a single victim advocacy group. He didn’t interview any victims when he made this decision based solely on his political ideas, and all victim advocacy groups were insulted by that, and I know this because as a detective I work with those people,” Hamilton says.
Barrett says that he is working to make meaningful change in Dane County by using new, data-driven methods to make Dane County safer for everyone.
“…that’s why all of the implementations that we have done in the past 15-17 months that I’ve been here in office have been successful, because we’ve made that evidence-based, data-driven decision making mindset to everything that we do. That’s what’s needed to go forward. I’ve fought hard and I’ve advocated for us to have proactive ways of serving our communities, especially our rural areas,” Barrett says.
Both Barrett and Hamilton say that completing the stalled Dane County Jail Consolidation Project is of top concern. Barrett has long been critical of the current Dane County Jail, which was first built in the 1950s, calling it inhumane, unsafe, and borderline unconstitutional.
Hamilton agrees, saying that it is the job of the Dane County Sheriff to oversee the jail, but without an updated jail, the sheriff is not able to live up to their constitutional duties.
What’s the biggest difference between the two candidates? Barrett says that not only does he have the experience of being the Dane County Sheriff, but he has been keeping the campaign clean.
“The campaign that we’ve been running has been very successful and positive, focusing on all the things we have done, that we’re doing now, and what I will continue to do as sheriff going forward, and staying away from the negative campaigns that have just poisoned our current politics,” Barrett says.
Hamilton, though, has criticized Barrett for being appointed to the position. And Hamilton says if elected, he would make the Sheriff’s Department more transparent. Hamilton points to the two recent shootings by the department in Oregon and Windsor that have happened in the last month.
“I don’t know why, for whatever reason, not be transparent with the public when he’s had every opportunity, even in these last few weeks of an election cycle, to be transparent with the public and build trust, show the public ‘Hey, maybe a mistake was made, maybe not, but I’m going to give you information.’ Instead, he’s hiding,” Hamilton says.
Both of those shootings are under investigation by the state Justice Department, and law enforcement typically does not comment on ongoing investigations.
Meanwhile, Hamilton has recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging he was unfairly disciplined after raising concerns over the legality of a raid last year.
The sheriff’s office maintains Hamilton was placed on leave after he recorded the raid without being authorized to do so. He then shared the video on the messaging app Signal, against department policy, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.
That lawsuit is still awaiting a hearing.
The fall election will take place next week Tuesday, November 8. Early in-person voting is open now until this Sunday, November 6. While you can register to vote at your polling place on election day, there is no voter registration this weekend.
Photo courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT Flickr