“We have tried to do things a little bit differently,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said, referring to his position in law enforcement. After 11 years of working in the legislative process, Dart has brought his Christian views and perspective to Cook County, where he implements them daily. In 2009, Dart was named to TIME magazine’s 100 list of people who “most affect the world.”
Speaking to Trinity students, faculty, and community members, Dart discussed three current issues in law enforcement: home evictions, Internet prostitution, and Burr Oak Cemetery. His speech showed how he, as a sheriff and Christian, is handling each issue.
Criminal justice major Tom Kakos ’11 of Chicago commented on Dart’s presentation. “His speech had an impact on me because I need to learn what the real world entails and how to deal with people not just on a superficial level, but on a Christian level.”
Dennis Connelly, professor of criminal justice, said Dart illustrates the impact of a Christian in law enforcement. “Dart communicated that the decisions made by criminal justice personnel should take into account how those involved are affected—the victim, society and the offender,” said Connelly. “In traditional criminal justice, the offender is the primary focus, but Dart concentrates on addressing the trauma the victim has experienced while still ensuring that offenders are properly punished.”
After banks and mortgage companies started going after homeowners unable to pay, seizing their homes without warning, Dart stepped in, arguing that innocent people were being left on the streets. Deciding he would not be one to make excuses, he stopped the evictions and mandated that families be given fair warning, allowing time for alternative arrangements to be made.
“I just went ahead and did it,” he said, choosing to leave judges out of the decision. “My terms were simple: you have to let people know ahead of time.”
With Craigslist as a leading source for Internet prostitution, Dart has been working hard to get the owners of the site to eliminate prostitution from the Web.
Despite negative feedback on the sheriff department’s website over the issue, Dart has been able to decrease the level of description in the Craigslist postings.
“The law has not been kind to us as far as stopping this site,” Dart said, but added that he rejoices over the fact that in the past year, the department has relieved more than 10 women from their work on the streets. Dart said he plans to continue the initiative, ultimately reducing prostitution as a whole.
Burr Oak Cemetery
“I’m hoping to work with families to bring some form of closure,” Dart said, commenting on the aftermath of an elaborate scheme to resell plots in the historic Burr Oak Cemetery.
Understanding the tremendous devastation to the families involved, Dart is working hard to do all he can to correct the issue, bringing some sense of peace back into their lives. Dart is very confident in the case and hopes to bring closure soon.