Darren Chambers is running for another term as sheriff of Sumner County, the county where he began his law enforcement career at the Mulvane Police Department in 1983. The following month, he became certified at the Kansas Law Enforcement Academy
"When I was a brand new officer, fresh out of the Academy, I promised my friends and family that I would come back and serve as Sheriff," he said. "That pledge is what drives my pledge to serve. I took my Law Enforcement Oath of Honor with pride, and I continue to serve the citizens of Sumner County with integrity and honor every day."
Chambers is facing Jason Boyd in the primary to be held Aug. 4. With no Democrat running for the position, whoever wins the primary will, in effect, be elected sheriff.
He served as a Sumner County Sheriff’s Deputy from 1985 to 1990 while completing an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Cowley County Community College.
"From 1990 to 2011, I was at the Wichita Police Department," he said. "I worked in the Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit, investigating crimes against children, before being promoted to the rank of Sergeant in April 1997. Starting in 1997, I served as Supervisor of a Special Community Action Team, targeting street level gangs and narcotics," he said.
In 2008, Chambers was appointed to command the Mounted Unit. The following year, I received certification to be a Mounted Police Trainer by the U.S. Border Patrol and began training mounted police officers. For seven years I served as a Domestic Violence Instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Hutchinson. In 2007, I became a member of the Advisory Board for 911 Emergency Services in Sumner County.
In 2011, the Sumner County Sheriff stepped down mid term, and he was elected by the Sumner County Republican Party, and then confirmed by Governor Brownback. I was sworn in August 2011. In 2012, I won election and have served as Sumner County Sheriff since, also winning re-election in 2016.
In his past two terms as sheriff, Chambers said he is proud of improvement in jail, updating radio equipment and getting better pay for staff.
One of the first improvements Chambers made to outfit all deputies in current standard tactical bulletproof vests. The previous administration had not invested in these for quite some time. The deputies were wearing ill-fitting and, in some cases, expired equipment, he said.
"I oversaw several improvements to the Sumner County Jail, including adding much needed laundry facilities as well as additional beds," he said. "Sumner County dispatch needed upgrades to the radio system, which, when completed, brought the facility into the 21st century. These upgrades improve interdepartmental communication and cooperation. Whatsmore, these radio and communication upgrades did not cost Sumner County a penny from their taxes. These projects were funded by inmate telephone charges.
Over time, the department has upgraded vehicles from the sedan style police cruiser to four wheel drive SUVs. This allows deputies to have more equipment on them so that they can assist citizens or other departments on a variety of calls.
Throughout this entire global pandemic, his entire staff has worked tirelessly to protect inmates and Sumner County residents, Chambers said.
"They’ve stuck to new policies; they’ve done everything possible to keep the virus out of the jail.," he said. "It is great to see that everybody took challenges head on, and we can say we’ve kept the coronavirus out of the jail.
Future improvements are being made on a case by case basis. The coronavirus has impacted the Sheriff's Office in a handful of ways. Most notably is that the number of beds filled by out of county inmates is down, Chambers said.
"This is why I cut the Office budget by $500,000 on July 2," he said." If inmate numbers are down, then I do not need to fill previously empty jailer positions, can reduce some man hours, and will save in other areas as well. As of right now, capital improvements are on pause."
Chambers said he has worked every type of criminal case you can imagine, from the mundane traffic stop to the gut wrenching; missing and exploited children's unit.
"While serving at Wichita Police Department I supervised over 30 officers on a daily basis," he said. "My duties included overseeing crime scenes, scheduling media releases and annual performance appraisals to internal investigations on officer complaints.
While serving as Sheriff of Sumner County for the past eight years, Chambers has overseen the daily activities of managing a 185 plus bed jail, overseen 65 staff and managed the largest department in county government.
Chambers is not without criticism. Boyd has criticized him for hiring staff, living outside the county.
"I don’t have 10 employees," he said. "I have almost 70. He’s delusional if he thinks he can staff and keep them in the county. He has no history of hiring and firing people. He’s never been a boss."
Daniel W. Shipley, a former Sumner County deputy, wrote a Facebook post that appeared on the "Boyd For Sheriff" Facebook page.
"A chain of command should flow up and down," the post said. "Relaying information up and down smoothly. Sheriff Chambers does not run the ship. As a matter of fact, most of his support staff doesn’t run the ship. The Sumner County Sheriff’s Office is a bunch of little ships. The men and women on the lowest levels are almost all good people and they do a good job running their own ships. This is, until out of nowhere, a Higher Up or a Non-Deputy, who doesn’t know how to run any of the ships, decides to step in. They go from no management whatsoever, to micromanagement, right directly into mismanagement, because they don’t know what they are doing.
They have a ton of "experience" in Chamber’s Higher Ups, but they don’t listen, they don’t change, they are not hands on with what they want, they don’t communicate, and they don’t agree. People are often left to just do their best, waiting to get in trouble for doing nothing different than normal and nothing different than anyone else.
On Chambers’ professional Facebook page, he copied a post by Ann Funderburk.
"I went to school with Darren and grew up knowing his family," the post said. "He has always been a hard worker, very conscientious, polite man…"There are all kinds of misinformation going around about him and his policies. Disgruntled individuals are posting information that is false...Dirty politics are just that."
Chambers said he is told staff morale is higher now than ever before.
"The most valuable thing I have learned while in office is to take time to listen to your employees," he said.