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Council Confirms New Cuyahoga County Sheriff Christopher Viland

Confirmation of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish's nominee for sheriff, Christopher Viland, was held up by council because of questions about the job's independence. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]
cuyahoga county office building

Cuyahoga County Council unanimously approved Christopher Viland as the new county sheriff Tuesday.

Viland’s most recent job was as Cleveland’s first police inspector general, from 2019 until late last year. Before that, he was chief of police in Solon from 2011 to 2019. He holds a law degree from Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Council members praised Viland’s credentials throughout the confirmation process, but delayed a vote because of a dispute with the county executive’s office over the independence of the sheriff’s.

The sheriff is appointed by the county executive, but under a recently passed charter amendment, can only be fired by county council. Several council members sought to make clear, before confirmation, that while the county executive is responsible for hiring the sheriff, Viland will be held responsible for what happens at the county jail.

“I want to assure that I have heard over the last several weeks the messages that have been sent and I take them deeply to heart,” Viland told council. “I pledge to make sure that I do the job that you’re expecting me to do.”

His only experience running a jail is with the 26-bed Solon city jail but under the Cuyahoga County charter, Viland is required to pursue additional jail administration certification within a year.

During his confirmation hearing in February, Viland described his outlook as a progressive view of policing, emphasizing transparency and the need for up-to-date policies on use of force and bias free policing.

“The community has entrusted us with the power to investigate, the power to detain, the power to impact reputations, to search and to deprive people of their freedoms,” Viland said. “Those are powers that are given by the people in return only for the obligation that they be utilized justly, fairly and appropriately.”

Council President Pernel Jones, before voting to confirm Viland, said he still plans to formally introduce an ordinance that will clearly lay out the independence of the sheriff from the county executive.

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