Bristol Sheriff-Elect Heroux Eases Concerns on Staffing and Program Changes
Bristol County Sheriff-Elect Paul Heroux made his first in-studio appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight since his upset victory over longtime Sheriff Tom Hodgson.
Heroux said he and Hodgson haven't had a conversation since the election. Heroux has spoken with Bristol County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling and he expects that he and Hodgson will meet before Heroux is sworn in as sheriff on January 3.
During his transition, Heroux hopes to tour the House of Correction in Dartmouth and the Ash Street Jail and meet with all of the department heads at the BCSO.
Heroux took questions from the audience via phone and the WBSM app throughout his two-hour appearance. The central point that the sheriff-elect wanted to make clear is that he wouldn't make any immediate personnel or program changes.
"I respect the institutional knowledge of people," Heroux said. "They're doing their job.The jail is operating right now. If I were to go in and just start getting rid of people on day one, we're throwing institutional knowledge out of the window."
The Democrat sheriff-elect drew comparisons to his transition to Attleboro mayor after defeating 14-year incumbent Republican Mayor Kevin Dumas. Heroux said he maintained the entirety of Dumas' staff and didn't make his first termination until two years into his time as mayor, and the termination was a volunteer member of a city commission.
Heroux said that there will be changes, but they will be gradual, and that when he eliminates a position he will offer the employee an opportunity to transfer to another job within the BCSO.
With respect to the BCSO's role in law enforcement activities such as police training and operations, Heroux stressed that he believes the primary role of the sheriff is corrections, but recognizes that their are law enforcement responsibilities of the BCSO that will continue after he takes over.
"I want to leave law enforcement to the local police," Heroux said. "So the police can arrest them, we'll hold them. Having said that, there is a relationship between the police and the sheriff's office with respect to transition and assisting with investigations. I understand that goes on and it will continue to go on."
Heroux said that immigration policy enforcement – one of Hodgson's signature issues during his time as sheriff – will be left to the federal government, but he will assist them when necessary.
"As sheriff, I will work with the federal government," he said. "If they need information, we're going to give them whatever information they need. We are never going to make it difficult for them to do their job. If they want to come in, we'll open the doors for them – but we're not going to do their job."
Heroux fielded multiple questions from the audience about the future of community engagement programs such as autism awareness, and the "Are You Okay?" program, which briefly contacts seniors daily to ensure they are in good health and not in need of emergency services.
He said that if it's a program that he thinks the sheriff's office should continue, they will continue it, and if it's a program that provides a necessary public service that he doesn't think fits within the role of the BCSO, then he will ensure that the program continues, but with another governmental or nonprofit organization.
Throughout his appearance on SouthCoast Tonight, Heroux continued to stress his core corrections philosophy that he says focuses on the "care, custody, control and rehabilitation" of the inmates and will assist them in getting "housing, healthcare, and a job" so that they can more effectively reenter society and be less likely to reoffend.
He also said they will begin measuring recidivism, which is the rate in which inmates reoffend upon release, and make that data publicly available.
"It's not nearly as exciting, it's not nearly as emotional or anger-provoking as illegal immigration," Heroux said. "I'll be in the newspaper for other reasons and they're a little bit more boring reasons – but in my opinion, a little bit more meaningful. It'll have a bigger impact. We'll get a bigger bang for our buck."
Listen to Sheriff Elect Heroux's interview on SouthCoast Tonight: