New sheriff in town
SUFFOLK COUNTY—A roundtable discussion for media and other community groups was held last Friday at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. It was presided over by newly installed Suffolk County sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. During the meeting, Toulon outlined his agenda for his first year in office.
The new sheriff said he hopes to be as “transparent as possible” and insisted he will work to get politics out of the sheriff’s office by refusing to take donations, saying he felt “ethically and morally responsible” not to do so. Without giving any specifics, Toulon also said that he wasn’t going to hide from the fact his office has had “some issues” in the past. He was referring to the former Suffolk County Conservative Party leader Edward Walsh, who was convicted last year of wire fraud and theft of government services while serving as a lieutenant in the sheriff’s department under then-sheriff Vincent DeMarco.
Toulon has spoken at numerous schools in Suffolk County. “I hope to get to the kids before they get to me,” he said, adding he wants to “break down the social barriers between law enforcement and the community.” He told a story about how someone recently said he was going to be the “community sheriff.”
That being said, Toulon insisted he would be “very tough on crime.”
His agenda includes enhancing cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in Nassau County and New York City, tackling the gang problem and the opioid crisis, and reforming inmates. “We want to break the cycle,” he said. “It’s important to give those being released the resources they need, whether they’re returning to Southold or Amityville,” he said, adding that some have no education, while others have graduate degrees but have a hard time finding work because they must disclose they’ve been to prison.
The sheriff’s office will also be releasing public service announcements about the opioid crisis, according to Toulon. “I will be very vocal in this campaign,” he said.
In addition, Toulon said he is going to keep U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stationed within the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, despite some recent criticism of the agency. He said he wasn’t unsympathetic to those who are being held due to their legal status, but explained that he must keep in mind the safety of all Suffolk County residents, especially since some of those being held by ICE have substantial criminal records. He also insisted he wasn’t going to expand the 150-bed vacancy because there is currently no need to do so.
Toulon has 30 years of criminal justice experience, heavily centered upon corrections intelligence and combating gang violence both inside and outside correctional facilities, according to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s website.
His criminal justice experience commenced with 22 years as a uniformed member of service with New York Department of Correction. He then spent two years as the assistant deputy county executive for public safety under the administration of county executive Steve Bellone, before being named deputy commissioner of operations for the New York City Department of Correction in July 2014.
Toulon was elected to his current position on Nov. 7, 2017. He officially became Suffolk County’s 67th sheriff on Jan. 1, making him the county’s first African-American sheriff. When asked about this fact during Friday’s forum, he said his election shouldn’t affect the sheriff’s office in any way. However, Toulon does hope that it could have a positive influence in the various, and sometimes troubled, communities he visits.
He also said last week that women in his office face “unique challenges,” and the rest of the staff must help to create an “open environment” where they can “speak openly” and more easily rise to positions of power in the department.
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