Kansas sheriff's executive says arrests offensive

9/24/2013

WICHITA (AP) — A southwest Kansas sheriff's arrest a week ago made him the third sheriff in less than two years to potentially face criminal charges, a statistic that disappoints his counterparts in counties across the state, according to the head of the Kansas Sheriffs Association.

WICHITA (AP) — A southwest Kansas sheriff's arrest a week ago made him the third sheriff in less than two years to potentially face criminal charges, a statistic that disappoints his counterparts in counties across the state, according to the head of the Kansas Sheriffs Association.

"It's offensive to every sheriff, and it should be," Sandy Horton told The Wichita Eagle.

Hamilton County Sheriff Richard Garza was arrested early Sept. 15 on suspicion of aggravated assault. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and a special prosecutor, Scott County Attorney John Shirley, are investigating the incident.

Shirley told The Associated Press last week the incident involving Sheriff Richard Garza was a "family matter" and that there was no physical violence. He said he hadn't decided whether to file charges.

Even without charges, Horton called incidents like Garza's "offensive."

"A sheriff's not above the law," Horton said. "They're charged to enforce the law. If there's a violation, they are subject to all the punishments and everything that falls within that."

Garza's case comes after the January 2012 arrest of Rooks County Sheriff Randy Axelson on drug charges and felony obstruction charges earlier this year against Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry and a top deputy.

Axelson pleaded guilty to four counts of distribution of methamphetamine and was sentenced to slightly more than four years in prison.

Curry, who also was charged with misdemeanor official misconduct, resigned and entered a diversion program under which charges against him will be dropped once he completes it. He also agreed to give up his Kansas law enforcement certification for the rest of his life.

His deputy also resigned and relinquished his state law enforcement certification.

"Integrity is a huge thing," Horton said. "We've got a lot of fine people out there serving in the office of sheriff, and they share in the disappointment."

It's not always the arrest of a law enforcement officer that gets the public's attention, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said.

"What's more important is how those cases are addressed," Easter said. "If they're just kind of shoved under the carpet and nothing's really looked at, that really erodes public trust."

Four of Easter's deputies have been arrested on suspicion of criminal activity since he took office late last year, which Easter recently described as "very frustrating."

"I don't get it," he said. "We're sworn to uphold the law, not break the law."

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