Letter as submitted by Bob Armstrong, Democratic Candidate for Ocean County Sheriff:
Supporters of my opponent for sheriff claim my proposal to cross-train sheriff’s and corrections officers isn’t realistic. Those claims simply reveal a lack of vision on the part of the sheriff and Ocean County’s entrenched leadership.
Right now county officers cannot fill in for each other when the need arises. As a result, the county paid sheriff and corrections officers $4 million for overtime in 2011. That expense could have been greatly reduced if qualified officers had been interchangeable.
With training at the Ocean County Police Academy in Lakewood (which some county authorities would like to close), those officers could provide mutual backup and more. Corrections officers, for example, could attain the status of sworn law enforcement officers, expanding Ocean County’s crime fighting and emergency response capability, especially under a re-energized sheriff’s department.
Would it be easy?
Of course not.
Cross training would require a change in the culture of both groups, not to mention approval of the Police Training Commission in the New Jersey Department of Criminal Justice. Rules such as age limits might still apply. Since cross training would be voluntary, we would have to provide incentives to those officers who elect to take part. But reduced overtime would more than pay for those incentives, and the greater public benefit would be a more versatile and nimble security resource for Ocean County.
It would be easier to accomplish if corrections were returned to the Department of the Sheriff where it belongs, of course, but a program could still succeed within the current administrative structure.
I would very much like the opportunity to debate this publicly with Mr. Polhemus, but he is nowhere to be seen or heard on this or any other issues.
Candidate for Ocean County Sheriff