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Cuyahoga County Council supports sheriff nominee Harold Pretel after first hearing

 harold pretel at cuyahoga county council
Matthew Richmond
Ideastream Public Media
Harold Pretel appears at Cuyahoga County Council during his July 7, 2023 confirmation hearing to become the county's new sheriff.

Harold Pretel retired from the Cleveland Division of Police in July, after close to 30 years with the department and appears headed to a quick confirmation as county sheriff.

In May, County Executive Chris Ronayne nominated Pretel, at the time the deputy chief for homeland special operations, to be the new county sheriff.

Council's Committee of the Whole approved his nomination Thursday, after a two-hour hearing. The nomination goes for a second reading at tonight's meeting and confirmation as early as July 18th.

"I understand the Cuyahoga County jail is job one," Pretel told the council. "Day one, job one."

Pretel was noncommittal on whether the county should change food service providers, after complaints by councilmembers and reports of substandard food and a financial connection between the food service provider and the commissary at the jail.

The county is also considering the purchase of land in Garfield Heights to build a new jail and a 40-year sales tax extension to pay for it. Pretel was noncommittal on the size or design components of a new jail but said he planned to visit the recently built Franklin County Jail and wanted to be part of any future planning.

Pretel served in Cleveland Division of Police for three decades and before that was a corrections officer and a deputy with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department.

As deputy chief with Cleveland Division of Police since 2017, he was responsible for three separate bureaus, containing over 40 units, including the gang impact unit, the bomb squad, domestic violence, sex crimes and child abuse units, the airport detail, narcotics and SWAT.

Pretel has advocated for expanding the use of surveillance technology like drones and a network of cameras around the city.

As sheriff, he would be in charge of the county jail and sheriff’s deputies who primarily enforce warrants.

There has been significant turnover in that position. The county has had six different sheriffs resign in the last 12 years. In February, interim Sheriff Steven Hammett quit after only eight months.

The previously confirmed sheriff, Christopher Viland,served in the role for a little over a year before resigning last yearto become the Cleveland Police Department’s superintendent of internal affairs.

If confirmed, Pretel will be the fifth person to hold the county sheriff job since 2019. Three have been interim sheriffs, with the most recent interim, Joe Greiner, serving in the role twice since 2019.

"That revolving door you’ve been speaking of, that’s going to end," Pretel told council. “It’s going to be a palpable feeling that it’s going to be different.”

The sheriff became an appointed position when the county adopted a charter in 2010. Several members of the county council have questioned whether that arrangement is effective and raised the possibility of bringing back an elected sheriff.

Council is divided over that proposal. Pretel responded to a question about that issue by taking no position.

"Obviously, there are pros and cons on both sides," he said.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.