Vanderburgh County Sheriff Noah Robinson: ‘I've got to accomplish all these things that I talked about during my campaign’
Newly-installed Sheriff discusses changes to jail leadership, community policing, recidivism and jail expansion
Noah Robinson is the new Vanderburgh County Sheriff, taking over from Dave Wedding who was term limited.
He’s been with the sheriff’s office for 20 years in various roles. Wedding was also a multi-decade veteran of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO).
“It seems to me that the Vanderburgh county residents seem to like the idea of sheriff deputies taking over that role,” Robinson said. “And we like it as well, because it makes a lot of sense in terms of understanding how a sheriff's office works, it's just not the same as the police department, or the state police or highway patrol.”
Robinson, who was installed on January first, is working though his leadership transition.
He said the VCSO has unique responsibilities such as the county jail, sex offender registry and tax warrant service. Administratively, he’s working on lining up staff meetings, touring various departments and even other sheriff’s facilities.
He’s also getting his staff up to speed with some changes he’s making. For example, he’s named a jail captain — Dave Guetling—who came up through the ranks as a confinement officer — not a deputy.
“Sheriff Wedding started us down this path of ensuring that individuals who work in that jail are confinement officers, and are not sheriff deputies, temporarily or semi temporarily assigned there,” Robinson said adding that this way, he can work on improving confinement officer retention, which is still a problem.
“I would predict that it is still going to be a challenge for us in the new year, despite the fact that they also received a raise that was along the same lines as the sheriff deputy.”
Robinson also remarked upon the balance he must strike in running day-to-day operations and working on his campaign promises.
“Sheriff's an elected position. And so I've got to accomplish all these things that I talked about during my campaign. And I've got to prove to the voting public that I was more than just a bag of hot air, that I actually intend to accomplish these things.”
One of these promises is adopting a community engagement model of policing — having deputies attend neighborhood meetings and be assigned to certain areas. But first he has to promote deputies into leadership positions from within.
There’s also the matter of the jail expansion.
“We've got to get it done because we've already gotten a loan for it,” he said. “So you know, the money needs to be spent. But I'm not happy right now with the current design.”
He appreciates the architect’s work but feels that distilling all the requirements into a "box" has created shortcomings, especially related to mental health.
“I've got to have the ability for clinicians and other professionals to visit with inmates and get their competency restored, I've got to have something that doesn't resemble — or is not explicitly a 'jail cell,' because people who are suffering mental health issues, generally speaking, don't do well in a box. And so I've got to have something that is conducive to improvement.”
They have to begin construction this year with the goal of creating a facility that discourages recidivism and returns inmates who are housed elsewhere, due to limited space in Vanderburgh County.
Robinson said every new sheriff will bring their own leadership style to the office. He said he is a little less strict.
“I don't come from a military background," he said. "But I appreciate order and discipline. The same token I don't expect people to snap to attention when I walked by; I want folks to view me as approachable.”
He said good performance comes from a good relationship with staff members.
“I believe truly believe that happy employees make for more efficient and more effective employees, which in turn leads to better service, which improves public perception of law enforcement.”