The already heated Salt Lake County sheriff race got even hotter Tuesday as candidate Aaron Kennard blasted incumbent Sheriff Pete Hayward as a man "still living in the '50s."
The Salt Lake police captain made his comments during a meeting of Footprinters, a law enforcement support organization. Although the sheriff was not at the meeting, Hayward's supporters defended him and returned fire on many of Kennard's attacks.A week ago, Hayward spoke to the same group and said he was proud to have played a role in reducing the amount of drugs in Salt Lake County schools and the numbers of prostitutes on Salt Lake streets. But Tuesday Kennard said those comments are those of a "desperate politician."
He said, "They only served to insult the intelligence of those people who heard or read the comments," and said law enforcement officers and county residents are "frustrated and furious that the sheriff would take such a don't-care, head-in-the-sand attitude."
Kennard said the Salt Lake County Sheriff's office is one of the finest agencies in the country despite the sheriff and not because of him. "The man that's heading it is still living in the '50s," he said.
But Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom strongly chastised Kennard during the meeting for spreading "false accusations" about Hayward, particularly concerning the sheriff's health.
"You went out and lied about his health," Yocom said. "It seems to me you're the desperate politician!"
Hayward said rumors that he recently had two mild heart attacks and was trying to hide them until after the election are nothing but "a bunch of horsewash."
"There is nothing wrong with me other than I had a kidney stone once," he said. About 10 years ago, he said, he also suffered a "charlie horse" in his heart, but it was not serious.
But Kennard again questioned Hayward's health Tuesday. "What's a charlie horse of a muscle in his heart? Who are we kidding?" he said.
The sheriff defended previous criticisms about his department's helicopter and its usefulness. He said he uses the helicopter each day for traffic control, searches and drug programs, and it was "never created for the purpose of being a toy."
"You will see the helicopter used more and more to get to an incident in Salt Lake County because of the traffic problem," he said.
But Kennard said that while the copter might not be a toy, he questioned whether the sheriff should be flying it every day.
"I am concerned, as many county residents are, that he is playing traffic watch every day instead of tending to the business of being the administrator that he was elected to be."
Hayward said his search-and-rescue unit was one of the foremost mountain rescue teams in the country and said his Juvenile Alcohol and Drug Enforcement units have helped clean up county schools.
"Ten years ago, you could walk into these schools and the marijuana smoke would blow you out of the restrooms," he said. "(Today) you would be very hard pressed to find drugs in a high school in our county."
He said his department's drug hotline has also greatly helped his deputies rid neighborhoods of many drug houses in the short time that it has been in operation.
Kennard said he supports valleywide police services to curtail crime and save tax
payers' money. He chastised Hayward for his refusal to participate in such shared programs, particularly a multijurisdictional gang effort that Salt Lake City, Murray, South Salt Lake, Sandy and the state have joined.
As sheriff, Kennard said he would implement an automatic weapons policy allowing deputies to use guns comparable to the ones that criminals are using.
Hayward said drugs and gangs are the "two most serious problems that need to be dealt with in the next 10 years." He said his department's specialized juvenile diversion program has been very effective in decreasing repeat violations among youths.
"We don't want kids to feel like they're losers because they're in the juvenile system," he said, explaining that the program offers alternatives to incarceration that better the lives of youths for good.