Government | My Suburban Life

DuPage County sheriff could face censure over refusal to enforce weapons ban

Supporters of DuPage County Sheriff Mendrick gather Tuesday outside the DuPage County administration building in Wheaton. (Brian Hill | Staff Photographer)

Saying words matter, DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy said Tuesday she will seek to censure Sheriff James Mendrick.

Conroy’s announcement came after more than 200 people gathered at the board meeting Tuesday to express support or outrage over Mendrick’s refusal to enforce the state’s new ban on high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“I think it’s very important, and I’m telling myself this as well as each and everyone one of you, that we remember as elected officials that words matter,” Conroy said. “Words are very important. The repercussions of what we say can be dangerous at times.

“It is my feeling that the board needs to have confidence that our sheriff is focusing on the safety of our residents and not engaging in inflammatory political rhetoric.”

Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, said she plans to present a resolution censuring Mendrick at the Feb. 14 county board meeting.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Conroy said she has not spoken to Mendrick, a Republican, and reiterated a call for him to attend a county board meeting to account for his statement.

Mendrick has not attended a county board meeting in several months.

DuPage County Board member James Zay, a Carol Stream Republican, said he supports Mendrick and would not support a censure.

“I support our Sheriff Jim Mendrick and his right to speak out about the problems with this act,” Zay said, referring to the state’s new law banning high-powered guns and high-capacity magazines.

He questioned the level of scrutiny Mendrick has endured from state and federal lawmakers.

“I’m concerned about the voracity we’re going after law enforcement officials and nothing about stronger penalties for those who commit crimes with a firearm,” Zay said.

County board members listened to nearly an hour of public comment from residents, many of whom supported Mendrick. More than 200 residents registered comments online before Tuesday’s meeting.

The meeting drew added security details and metal detectors at entrances to the county building. County officials said more than one person had to be turned away for trying to bring knives and other prohibited items into the building.

Mendrick is among dozens of Illinois sheriffs who have issued statements questioning the constitutionality of the state’s new ban. In his statement, Mendrick said he would not arrest or house anyone in the jail solely for noncompliance with the ban. He has said he would continue to investigate and arrest those charged with other crimes involving guns.

His statement drew the ire of several Democratic county board members and residents who last week called for him to retract his remarks or resign. A delegation of state and federal Democratic lawmakers Monday also called on Mendrick to retract his statement.

“I would ask those requesting the sheriff to tip down to do the same,” said Joe Cosentino, a West Chicago resident and firearms instructor.

Outside the DuPage County government building before the meeting, other residents said they were there to support their Second Amendment rights and the sheriff.

“I’m here to protect my rights as a citizen of DuPage County,” said Gina Parrilli, a Westmont resident. “And I feel like these politicians are making these radical moves and I have no say in my constitutional rights. My safety is more important than their radical views.”

Others continued calls for Mendrick to enforce the new ban fully and backed county officials who have called on him to do his job.

“If our new gun laws can save just one child, it’s worth it,” said Jax West, a Lisle resident who read the names of children killed by gun violence in 2023. “Do your job, Sheriff Mendrick. You are to enforce laws, not make them.”

As residents spoke, bursts of applause could be heard in the county board room on the third floor from the overflow crowd in the auditorium on the first floor. Meanwhile, people in the auditorium cheered and jeered speakers and held signs showing their support for Mendrick and gun safety. One resident drew laughter when he suggested that Democratic county board members critical of Mendrick have only secured Mendrick’s place as the next governor of Illinois. Mendrick has not said he is running for governor.

Alicia Fabbre Daily Herald Media Group

Alicia Fabbre is a local journalist who contributes to the Daily Herald