Incoming Cape Cod Sheriff Donna Buckley Wants to Focus on Rehabilitation
Much has been said about the hotly-contested Bristol County Sheriff's election, both around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and nationally, that saw Democratic challenger Paul Heroux defeat longtime Republican Sheriff Tom Hodgson.
Just across Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod, however, was an open sheriff election that drew many parallels to the Bristol County Sheriff's race with respect to the warring philosophies on corrections and the debate on the role of the county sheriff in law enforcement – and it had a similar electoral outcome.
On November 8, Democrat Attorney Donna Buckley defeated Republican State Rep. Tim Whalen in the election for Barnstable County Sheriff. The office has been held by outgoing GOP Sheriff James Cummings for 24 years.
Sheriff-Elect Buckley previously worked for Cummings as General Counsel for the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office. In a recent appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight, Buckley said it wasn't her intention to get into the the race but when her opponent began putting forward his policy prescriptions, it differed greatly from what she believes the role of sheriff is.
"In one sentence: the role of the sheriff is to make sure that when people go back out on to the streets, they don't come back," Buckley said. "And I didn't see that from my opponent. I saw a continuation of six more years of the same administration that had been there for 24 years, where that wasn't the focus."
Buckley described her core philosophy for running the sheriff's office as "corrections, rehabilitation, and treatment," which she said will be a data-driven approach that focuses on providing mental health and addiction treatment services, education and job training, and working to better ensure that inmates have the tools they need to succeed once they are released.
Outside of corrections, Buckley also had a starkly different vision from her Republican opponent on the law enforcement role of the sheriff. Buckley believes the description of the sheriff as the county's chief law enforcement officer is a "ceremonial" designation and a vestige of a time before municipal police.
Buckley did acknowledge a "measure" of law enforcement in the role of sheriff. She said the sheriff can provide support to compliment but not duplicate the work of police, and she cautioned that expanding on that role would interfere with the policing policies in the cities and towns that are set by their elected officials.
"Your select board or your governing body hires your police chief and they set the tone, and the priorities, and the expectations of law enforcement in a particular town," Buckley said. "A sheriff's employee who comes in out of nowhere is unfamiliar with that dynamic and that's a recipe for trouble, and it's unnecessary because we pay our police to be the professional face of public facing law enforcement."
On immigration enforcement, Barnstable County is the only sheriff's office in New England to have a 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees awaiting federal immigration proceedings.
Buckley campaigned on terminating the 287(g) agreement between ICE and the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office, arguing that it does nothing to further public safety in the county. She said terminating the agreement will be the first thing she does when she is formally sworn in.
When asked about the circumstances surrounding the death by suicide of Adam Howe, the Truro resident who was held at the Ash Street Jail, Buckley said that going forward both Bristol County and Barnstable County should take responsibility for holding their own detainees and that there needs to be a conversation on better mental health screening.
Listen to Barnstable County Sheriff-Elect Donna Buckley's interview on SouthCoast Tonight.