Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards again took the podium in front of the blue background at Allen County Republican headquarters and announced her candidacy for the job she currently holds.
If she wins re-election, it will be her fourth term, making her the longest-serving prosecutor in Allen County. The filing deadline for the spring primary is noon Feb. 7, and elections will be May 6.
In a friendly room, full of her staff as well as area defense attorneys and other elected officials including Circuit Court Judge Tom Felts and Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, Richards, 59, made official what many already knew. She has no intention of giving up her position as the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander introduced Richards, telling the noon-time crowd that his boss delivered on the promises she made a dozen years ago.
Touting the record she’s amassed in the past 12 years, Richards, a 1979 graduate of Indiana University’s School of Law, said she’d never thought she’d be standing there again in 2014. She thanked her staff for doing the “heavy lifting” in the office.
Under Richards’ watch, the prosecutor’s office collected $40.7 million in child support payments last year, up from $26.8 million in 2002.
The office hasn’t had a budget increase since 2002, has maintained a good relationship with local law enforcement agencies and worked alongside the county’s “problem-solving courts” such as Restoration Court, Drug Court and Re-Entry Court, as well as the newly created Veterans Court, she said.
“Opinions are changing a little bit on how we prosecute cases,” she said. “People have come to realize that there are folks that are dangerous and that you are afraid of and that should be locked up. But there are a whole other group of people in the criminal justice system who don’t need to be locked up, they need to be helped up. And those are folks that have addictions and/or folks that have mental health issues.
As tough as our office has been on violent crime, we have been very collaborative and very proactive in trying to find services for folks with addictions and mental health issues.”
She said the prosecutor’s office would continue to look for ways to help those with addiction and mental health issues.
Other programs highlighted by Richards included the establishment of a domestic violence coordinator; moving Adult Protective Services into the prosecutor’s office; creation of a financial crimes unit that handled nearly 150 cases with a 94.6 percent conviction rate; and a homicide unit and a prosecutorial presence at every suspicious death in the county, as well as at every unexpected death of a child.
Her office created a protocol to investigate child deaths, participated in the Allen County Child Mortality Review Team and launched public-service campaigns warning parents of unsafe sleeping practices and the dangers of leaving children alone in motor vehicles.
Richards credited her staff, many of whom are career prosecutors, with providing a good product to the community.
“We don’t want to give the farm team back to the community,” she said.
Richards will square off against one of the same opponents she faced in 2002 in J. Michael Loomis, who filed his official paperwork in Indianapolis on Thursday.
“I welcome the chance to talk to the public about what I’ve accomplished,” she said.
Many members of the public don’t realize the prosecutor’s office does more than just take on felonies but rather is made up of divisions that handle misdemeanors, child support and other services, she said.
“A lot of that gets overlooked,” she said.