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New Sheriff outlines plans

Hamilton County Sheriff-elect Jim Neil is preparing to take over the reins. Neil bested outgoing Sheriff Simon Leis' right-hand man, becoming the first Democrat to hold the office in more than three decades.Neil says job one is auditing the department for ways to save money or share services.

“We have a patrol academy and we have a jail academy. Why can’t we just have a Sheriff’s academy? We have duplications of services county-wide. How many SWAT teams do we have? How many dive teams do we have? …There are things we can do to work together.”

Neil says the audit will also identify the bottom line budget amount the department requires to operate.

When it comes to jail overcrowding, he favors alternative sentencing.

“Through the use of diversions, if we can free up jail cells, that way we have those available for our most dangerous and violent offenders,” he says.

And if more space is still needed, he says building a new jail - which voters already rejected - isn't the answer.

“We still have the county jail up on the sixth and seventh floor of the courthouse that’s being used as a warehouse for other county facilities. It would be much more economical to rehab and utilize a portion if not that entire facility again,” he says.

He also doesn't see much need for some of his predecessor's more eccentric purchases, including a surplus army tank.

Lt. Mark Schoonover will serve as Chief Deputy. Both have more than 30 years of service as deputies and carried the FOP's endorsement.

Neil is also a certified bomb tech and he does plan to renew that certification in July.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.