Sheriff candidate Luke NaThalang wants to bring fresh, cooperative, community approach to county department
FORT WAYNE—Luke NaThalang is not your typical guy. In an age where the norm is to focus on personal advancement above all else, whether it be in business or politics, NaThalang’s personal mantra is devotion to others. He’s active in the community, serving a number of organizations in various capacities, including vice president of the Burn Council, president of the Concordia Lutheran High School Band Boosters and as a mentor for Big Brothers/Big Sisters—among other things. And, he is active in his church, Concordia Lutheran, where he serves on the Endowment Board. Amidst all that, he finds time to be an attentive father and husband, attending school functions, even working at a number of them, and working for his wife’s family business, Armstrong Flowers, serving as office and delivery manager. Oh yes, and he’s a well-respect, highly-credentialed 29-year veteran of the Indiana State Police, serving as acting supervisor of the North Zone Motorcycle Squad.
People who know NaThalang say he’s not content to do “business as usual,” but as a true community servant he is always working to find and implement a better way to do things. Now he’s set to bring that commitment, experience, education and can do attitude to the political arena as he runs for the office of Allen County Sheriff in a rare contested Republican primary set for May. And, if he’s elected sheriff, NaThalang says it will not be “business as usual.”
For example, NaThalang says the Sheriff’s Department needs to be more active in working to solve community problems. While many people—including a lot of people in law enforcement—see the city and county as two very separate entities, NaThalang is quick to point out that Fort Wayne is major part of the county and that the problems of Fort Wayne are the problems of Allen County.
“Every time there’s something in the news, it’s always ‘the highest homicide rate in Allen County,” said NaThalang, pointing out that “like it or not,” the Sheriff’s Department also is responsible for dealing with crime in the city.
“To me, we’ve got to work as one entity to solve these homicides,”he said. “I want to share the responsibility; I want to share the resources, basically solve these problems we have together.”
While some might point out that the Sheriff’s Department and Fort Wayne Police Department occasionally work together, contributing task forces and other high profile official projects, NaThalang said he wants to go beyond the current attitude of different law enforcement agencies sitting back and dispassionately waiting to be invited to help. He said he wants to be more proactive and offer to share resources at every practical turn without having to be asked. In his duties with the Indiana State Police, he’s already formed productive relationships with members of area law enforcement agencies including the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, which he hopes to head, and the Fort Wayne Police Department. NaThalang said as sheriff, he can help foster even more such productive relationships and help focus collective resources on solving problems—such as last year’s rash of homicides. And, he said, it’s not about making headlines and personal advancement.
“We don’t care who gets credit,” said NaThalang of himself and supporters. “All we care about is getting the job done. We’ll work with you. We’ll do whatever it takes to solve the problem.”
NaThalang’s attitude about not doing “business as usual” also extends to his overall approach to public safety. He said enforcement is not the only aspect of keep the community secure. In fact, he said, prevention is a key element of a safe, productive community with a real future. As a father, soon to be grandfather and man who works with young people in the community including at school and church and as a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, NaThalang said he knows the value of getting to young people early—so that they don’t end up in the system.
“Throwing people in jail is not the answer. I want to start working with kids before they get into trouble,” he said.
Again, NaThalang emphasized the importance of a concerted effort to solve the problem. He said there were a number of organizations—such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters—in the community that could contribute to an effort to reach young people before they get into trouble.
“I want to work with the community. I want to use the resources we have in the county to address the problem,” said NaThalang.
And, he’s willing to devotes some resources of the Sheriff’s Department to addressing the problem. He said the county employs 124 law enforcement officers and 200 confinement officers. NaThalang said he said he like to see each of those officers spend an hour a day during various periods of time going into schools working with young people on a constructive, preventative basis. The payoff, he said, would be huge future dividends for the community, the state and the nation.
“It’s been shown that you will get results,” said NaThalang. “Keep these kids on track and you won’t have to build more jails.”
Another key element to effective law enforcement and crime prevention is being able to work with a community that is growing more diverse every day. Growing up in Thailand early in life, NaThalang said racial prejudice was unheard of—in part because everyone was Thai. But, it taught him early that people are people and gave him the heart to deal with people of all types, including people of different races, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Truly effective law enforcement agencies, he said need to be willing to reach out to those various communities. As for the local diversity, NaThalang said “I’m more than qualified to deal with that.”
The bottom line is NaThalang said he wants to see the Sheriff’s Department operate on a more proactive stance.
“Too many times, law enforcement tends to be reactive and we’re losing the game with that approach,” he said. “What I want to bring into the department is a fresh new perspective. But, it’s not about me. I’ve got nothing to prove. It’s about working with the community.”