School security and gun control were two of the topics addressed by the two Republican candidates for DuPage County sheriff during a candidate forum March 10 at Hadley Junior High School, organized by the League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn.
Both candidates work in the DuPage County Sheriff's Office. Frank Bibbiano is undersheriff, and he is endorsed by retiring DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba, and James Mendrick is patrol commander for the office. DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin has endorsed Mendrick.
Whoever wins the race in the March 20 primary will face Democrat Gregory Whalen – who does not face a primary opponent – in the November general election.
Bibbiano and Mendrick were asked about how they would improve school security in the wake of the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.
Bibbiano said he would implement a "more comprehensive, active shooter training program for the deputies in the office."
"We just recently had a large-scale training exercise with our SWAT team at Fox Valley Mall," he said. "There were a number of different units within the Sheriff's Office. Everybody was there working together. We learned a lot of lessons from that, and that definitely carries over to keeping our schools and public areas safe for the good of everybody."
Mendrick stressed the need for the Sheriff's Office to work more closely with school districts.
"We need to plug our dispatch centers into schools' cameras and [public address] systems," he said. "We need to encourage bullet-proof glass or lockdown doors... The stuff in Florida, I don't think it would have happened if that officer had direction from dispatch. At the same, you could have localized PA systems in the rooms and in the hallway directing students and teachers at the same time. So you are simultaneously directing the victims to get out of the area, and you're sending an officer to address the threat."
Mendrick also said school districts "need to identify these people who are potential school shooters before something happens."
"We need to have an intervention to prevent any future school shootings," he said.
The candidates also were asked about their views on gun control. Bibbiano said he doesn't own an assault weapon but "strongly" believes in the Second Amendment.
"That said, when our forefathers wrote that document, they could have no knowledge of what was ahead and what these weapons could be capable of and used for," he said. "That taken in account, the legislators have to have the tough conversations regarding gun control, and I support them in those conversations. As sheriff, I will enforce the laws as they are written."
Mendrick said 3D-printed guns are becoming an increasing problem.
"That's somebody that's bypassing every regulation that we have," he said. "They can simply put in a program, print out a gun, put a firing pin in it and it's ready to go. That's the type of gun control we should really be looking at... I would start there, with completely unregulated gun use."