Sheriff Mendrick has been a DuPage County resident for 37 years, with 25 years of experience serving the citizens of DuPage County. His professional approach, hard work, persistence and sense of responsibility helped Mendrick to rise through the ranks to lead the Sheriff’s Office in DuPage, which is the second largest county in Illinois. Hired in 1996 as a patrol deputy, James rose through the ranks of corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, major, administrative chief before being elected sheriff in November 2018. His office has 400 sworn and 100 civilian employees.
The word “sheriff” might sound a little scary to you, and you might picture a person with a gloomy face and a heavy look in his eyes. However, it doesn’t apply to Sheriff Mendrick. His openness, friendly approach and desire to hear what you have to say immediately create a pleasant environment and a trusting relationship. You feel that he cares, and in my opinion, that’s the main feature that every sheriff should have.
Where does this passion to serve people come from? Most likely, James took it from his father, Joseph Mendrick, who was the former Oak Park Chief of Police. Joseph Mendrick cared about people, his officers, his community and his family. Now, James Mendrick is doing the same, and it’s my honor to share with you this interview.
A. The shooting at Oak Brook mall was responded to by MERIT (Metropolitan Emergency Response and Investigative Team). This MERIT team has been in existence since August 1, 2019. It was a major emergency response to that shooting. We were able to clear 20,000 people from Oak Brook mall including the packed movie theater. We cleared out all these people from the mall in a 7 hour period of time looking for suspects, victims or witnesses. The Sheriff’s office and 36 municipal police departments responded to the mall as one cohesive team. Our team works together and responds together as one blended force. That’s why we had so many officers there so quickly. With all that response there were still no witnesses that saw the shooting and the shooting happened to be in an area where there was no camera. I got a call from our State’s Attorney Bob Berlin on Christmas telling me that we were unable to develop any witnesses or any video of the incident. He then said that if we couldn’t develop any binding evidence within a three day period of time we would have to release them due to a lack of evidence. The day after Christmas, five crime laboratory scientists from the DuPage County Crime Laboratory came in and did a DNA analysis of the two guns that we recovered at the crime scene. Within three days those scientists matched the DNA from both suspects' index fingers to the triggers of both handguns. And then they matched the DNA of the palms of both of their hands to the handles of both guns. So, now we had DNA evidence to prove that both of those suspects used both of those guns and we had gun powder residue on the sleeves of the coats of both suspects. That proved without a doubt that they were the two Oak Brook shooters. They were sentenced with one million dollar bonds for each suspect thanks to the hard work of our State’s Attorney Bob Berlin.
A. We had to make sure that all the citizens were safe while we extracted the suspects. We had to make sure that during an incident like that there was no further contact between the citizens and suspects.
A. We have a project that is called Vision. We call it VSN, which stands for virtual safety net. We have been just approved by the DuPage County board to purchase 60 license plate reading cameras. This technology has existed for a few years, but we are going to modify the technology to inform us on stolen cars and on wanted people in real time to notify a beat car that a stolen vehicle just entered their patrol area. Now, we are looking to marry the license plate reading technology to drones so we can follow the suspects to their home. This is a new technology which we are hoping to have up and running within 6 to 8 months.
A. I am law enforcement, I am not your doctor. I don’t believe in mandating any medical procedure as a policeman. I think those discussions should be between the patient and their physician. I believe in small government without government overreach. And I do not believe that medical mandates should be thrust upon employees. To be clear, I recommend everybody to be vaccinated, I just don’t believe anyone should be forced into any medical procedure. If you give employers that control over your medical procedures, where does it stop? I think that people who create the mandates should step up and be the ones to answer everybody’s questions, not their employer. Employers aren’t doctors and can’t answer medical questions from their employees.
A. It sounds like from recent court cases that it’s going in the other direction.
A. It’s a non-profit, faith based organization that helps the inmates change their lives. We provide a whole continuum of care. We do detox, medicated assisted treatment, and we also have 42 people getting their GED diplomas. We do training. We work with College of DuPage, and the inmates get college credits. To help them get back to society, we give them three suites, we call them “suites for success.” We have decreased the percentage for heroin recidivism from 90% to 18%, and criminality recidivism from 70% to 15%.
A. We offer 80 classes a week, with educational opportunities that provide academic, professional and personal growth through such classes as GED, ESL, Horticulture, Decision Making, Anger Management, Job Readiness, Life Skills and Parenting. Vocational training includes Welding, Custodial Maintenance and Construction Trades.
A. We have prevented all outbreaks since this all started before Omicron. We stopped it. The way we stopped it is we utilized our sanitation job training teams to keep the institution sterile. Clean surfaces, clean air, and incubation. We have an incubation floor. Everyone who is new has to be at the incubation floor for 15 days. Omicron didn’t seem to be preventable, but all the cases we had were fairly mild symptoms and we mitigated it well.
A. “It Takes a Village” started when everything got locked down. We got access to food at the restaurants and got it distributed to the homeless and impoverished in DuPage County. The program became so popular that we started working with the Senior Services Council on a program called Meals on Wheels. And we also started working with the Northern Illinois Food Bank and started doing food distribution through the Sheriff's office to residents in need. Last year, we provided food for 45,000 families in need. Four thousand pounds of food went to the local food pantries. We delivered 1000 turkeys and 1000 hams to impoverished families on Thanksgiving. On Christmas Eve, we had hot meals delivered to people in need.
A. We have lateral hires, and many of our new employees are police officers coming from Cook County or Chicago jobs.Seems like the way the police are treated in Chicago has caused them to migrate to DuPage. And we are happy to givethem a home.
A. It’s one of the things that the police don’t have control of. It’s hard to answer. Law enforcement is in the same boat as all of the citizens. Unfortunately, the mandates come down from entities that are not affiliated with any police entity. I don’t want to be given a responsibility to give any medical advice or enforce anything that is not a law. I do worry about the bigger the government gets, the more citizens resist. I never want to see what’s happening in Australia happen here in DuPage or anywhere in our nation.
A. We provide care to homeless people. Today, on Wednesday, January 26 we have care packages, coats ready to be distributed to homeless people in our area. It’s the coldest night of the year with temperatures dropping into negative double digits. Deputies in our Community Resource Unit have been busy packing bags with coats donated by Support Over Stigma and PPE donated by SCARCE. They are ready to distribute these bags during the annual DuPage County Street Count of Unsheltered Persons Experiencing Homelessness.
A. I am driven by helping people, and each success makes me want to do more. Also, we build some models that possibly can be nationwide examples for cohesion of law enforcement operations and rehabilitative services within our correctional facility. I feel like I am doing God’s work. We have people writing us letters where people are saying that they would be dead or overdose if they weren’t arrested and put in jail where they received our rehabilitative services. It makes me want to do more. We have moved some mountains during these years and we will be moving more. I am very grateful to my staff. I have the best well trained staff that are truly professional that makes my job a lot easier.
A. It’s difficult to add something to this interview, although I do have one thing that I want to say. We are lucky to live in
DuPage County, because this county is in good hands.