KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We're a step closer to learning who will be the next leader of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. A nine-member panel interviewed the top five candidates Friday.
This all comes after former Sheriff Mike Sharp resigned amid scandal last month.
The five candidates are: Rosilyn Allen, retired Kansas City Police major; Ramona Arroyo, retired Kansas City Police sergeant; Darryl Forte, retired Kansas City Police chief; James Ripley, retired Missouri State Highway Patrol lieutenant; and Michael Rogers, patrol enforcement captain for Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
All five come to the table with decades of law enforcement experience and a desire to use their skills to lead the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
"The more we work together, the more we find out about each other, the more we recognize our strengths and weaknesses and realize we're probably more similar than we often want to accept," Allen said.
The candidates were each peppered with five questions, and a number of follow-ups, on topics ranging from workforce diversity and current operation of the sheriff's department. Some of them said it's time to clean house in order to move forward following the Sharp scandal.
"I think it's time for a change. I'm a woman. I'm Hispanic and speak Spanish. I'm bilingual. And I'm not afraid to get involved. I've been trying to make a difference all my life," Arroyo said.
The five finalists were also asked about handling conflict, complaints of excessive force and investigating deputy-involved shootings.
"I want to continue to be one of those who lead, where you inspire people and they start creating ideals and know which direction they want to go," Forte said.
All five spent time talking about the need to establish relationships with community groups and improve community policing in the sheriff's department.
"If you have somebody in a neighborhood and wants to do a drive-by or homicide and there's a cop sitting on the block, they're going to move on. I want to stress that's not taking officers out of eastern Jackson County. We have the resources to do that," Rogers said.
The panel's line of questioning was clearly focused on moral character, too.
“I bring my ‘A’ game every day. I want people I’m asking things of to respect me. It doesn’t mean they have to like me, but respect me, and they do,” Ripley said.
The county certainly wants to make sure the next sheriff avoid future lawsuits and stains on the office.
The panel meeting Friday has already submitted its top choices to County Executive Frank White, who is expected to announce the new interim sheriff Monday.
All five candidates have said if chosen, they plan to run for sheriff in the fall, and all but one plan to run even if they are not chosen as interim sheriff. Candidate James Ripley is currently running for the Missouri state legislature. He indicated he will withdraw from that if he is selected as interim sheriff. If not selected as interim, he will continue running for the statehouse rather than the sheriff’s office.
The county said it had received several public comments in writing about the finalists before Friday's interviews. Only two people spoke publicly during the public comment period, and both supported Arroyo.
Candidate filing begins Monday to fill the sheriff's position after the interim period expires, and runs through May 14. A primary will be held in August and a general election in November.