Effective sheriffs should have law enforcement, management experience

Posted 28 October 2015 at 12:00 am


Back in September, I wrote a letter to the editor explaining the importance of the process of electing our next sheriff. The election of a sheriff in each county is the equivalent of allowing each voter the opportunity to check the qualifications and experience of each candidate and select your next “Chief Law Enforcement Officer.”

I compared this process to a government body, like a city council or village board, interviewing and selecting their next police chief. In both cases, you are choosing someone to lead, in most cases, the largest law enforcement agency in the county. That is certainly the case in Orleans County.

Much has been said over the past couple of months about experience. Experience matters. In fact, experience is the most importance aspect of choosing our next sheriff. The problem is, that experience needs to relevant! We are choosing our next chief law enforcement executive.

In order to demonstrate what relevant law enforcement experience for a sheriff is, I decided to embark on a research project for all of the voters in the county. What qualifies you to be sheriff? What experience do other sheriffs in New York State have?

In New York State, there are no formal, legislated qualifications for sheriff. The New York State Sheriff’s Association, which is the professional organization of sheriffs across the state, supports standards that include background checks and relevant law enforcement, public safety, legal, or military experience. You can learn more about the association’s support of these standards by clicking here.

Across New York State, there is a very clear pattern of what qualifies you to be sheriff. Being a police officer is a start! There are 57 sheriffs outside New York City. I reviewed their experience and career path and found they fell into distinct categories.

Thirty-four sheriffs worked their way up through the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office. The average number of years of experience the sheriffs in this category have was about 33 years.

The second category I found was former New York State Troopers. Eleven sheriffs fall into this category, and all of them worked their way up through the ranks of the State Police at some level. The average experience in this category is 37 years.

A third category were former municipal police chiefs. Five sheriffs in New York State have served as the chief of a local agency before becoming sheriff. Another five sheriffs were municipal police officers who worked up through the ranks of their agency. These two categories average 33 years of experience.

Lastly, there were are a couple of sheriffs who don’t fall into these categories – and yet they are still have real experience – one with 20 years’ experience as a judge and another who retired from United States Army as a brigadier general! Now that’s leadership experience!

The point of all of this is simple. Voters across New York State expect their sheriffs to be experienced law enforcement officers. Not only do they expect them to be law enforcement officers, they expect them to have “been there, done that,” working their way through the ranks during their career in whatever agency that may have been with. During their career, they learn to supervise. They learn to manage. They learn to lead. Without that professional growth, they would not be capable of performing the duties of the Office of the Sheriff.

In the Sheriff’s race in Orleans County, there are three candidates. The candidate who won the Republican endorsement has absolutely no relevant experience. He is not, and never has been a police officer. He isn’t even qualified to be a recruit officer at a local police agency. Why would we elect him sheriff?

The Democratic Party candidate was a police officer, but has no command or management experience, and has been retired for over seven years! Think about how much things change in seven years and about how relevant any experience he has remains so today.

Only one candidate for sheriff has committed his entire life and career to the citizens of Orleans County, and has taken the necessary career steps to establish himself as the most qualified candidate. Tom Drennan has worked hard to improve himself and work his way through the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office – gaining the real world experience you need to lead a modern day law enforcement agency.

Not only is Tom the most qualified to be our next sheriff from his law enforcement experience, he has dedicated his entire adult life to public service through his over 33 years of service to the Kendall Fire Department. He is the ONLY candidate that adds that experience to his resume.

The choice is simple and clear. Tom Drennan is the best choice for sheriff. He has the best qualifications. He has the most relevant experience. He is the most dedicated to our public safety. He has made public safety his life’s work. He is MY choice for sheriff and he should be yours, too!

Joseph Grube