Tags Posts tagged with "Errol Toulon"

Errol Toulon

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, second from left, with the family of Andrew McMorris, a Boy Scout fatally killed by a drunk driver in 2018. Photo courtesy Toulon's office

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) recently joined roadway safety advocates to announce a summer campaign targeting drunk driving.

Beginning during the July 4 holiday weekend, Toulon’s Office will increase DWI patrols and checkpoints from Huntington to the East End, continuing these measures throughout the summer in an effort to keep Suffolk’s roadways safe. According to the Sheriff’s Office, its DWI team has already had record-high impaired driving arrests this year, with a nearly 40% increase in DWI/DUI arrests from 2022.

Coined “Operation H.E.A.T.,” the initiative aims to ramp up already heightened efforts to mitigate these increases.  

“The ‘heat’ is on this summer for drunk and drugged drivers in Suffolk County,” Toulon said during a press event Thursday, June 29. “Our deputy sheriffs will be out in full force patrolling the roadways with an eye out for impaired drivers. If you don’t drive sober, you will be pulled over.” 

Joining Toulon was the family of Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout who was fatally hit by a drunk driver in 2018 while hiking with his Scout troop. The driver in that crash was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

“The Andrew McMorris Foundation asks everyone this summer and always to please make a promise to never drink and drive,” said Alisa and John McMorris of the Andrew McMorris Foundation. “Call a cab, call a friend, save a life, start a trend. You don’t have to be a superhero to save someone’s life. Just take the keys.”

Paige Carbone, regional executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also attended the meeting. She offered her support for the department initiative, emphasizing the need for stricter enforcement.

“Summer is one of the deadliest times of the year on our highways,” she said. “MADD supports Operation H.E.A.T. and will join the efforts by providing staff and volunteers to participate in checkpoints across the county this summer.” 

The regional director added, “Our mission is to end drunk driving, and MADD encourages alternatives, such as designating a non-drinking driver, rideshares and using public transportation. That can prevent these crimes from happening.”

Toulon also offered these tips:

  • If you are hosting a party, designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation to ensure guests get home safely.
  • If you’ve been drinking and don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home, call a taxi or rideshare service or stay for the night. 
  • Take the keys from a friend if you think they are about to drive while impaired. 

For more information on the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, please visit www.suffolksheriff.com.

Pixabay photo

The recent ransomware attack against the Suffolk County government has raised important questions about the relationship between citizens, governments and technologies.

A confirmed ransomware event took place in early September. The hack crippled the county’s information technology infrastructure, and recovery efforts remain ongoing. 

In the wake of these events, the hack prompted critics to question the digitization of sensitive information and how governments can better secure their IT networks.

What is ransomware?

Nick Nikiforakis is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on web security and privacy. In an interview, he described how ransomware works.

“Ransomware is, effectively, malicious software that infiltrates a machine, starts encrypting all sorts of private documents, spreadsheets, anything that is of value, and then leaks out to the attacker the encryption key and potentially the data that was encrypted,” he said. 

Some forms of ransomware affect only a single machine, according to Nikiforakis. Other strains may spread into several devices, potentially infecting an entire network.

Ransomware is the confirmed vector of attack for Suffolk County. However, how hackers first entered the county’s system is unknown to the public. 

While the details of the county hack are scanty, Nikiforakis said cyberattackers commonly use emails with malicious attachments. In other instances, they can locate vulnerable software within a network, exploit that weakness and breach that system. Once hackers gain access to the system, they hold sensitive information for ransom. 

“The original idea behind ransomware is that if you don’t pay the attacker the money that they ask, then you lose access to your data,” Nikiforakis said. 

Backup software was developed, in part, to mitigate this concern. Regardless, as technologies have evolved, so has cybercrime. 

“Even if you have the ability to restore your data from backups, now you have to deal with the attacker having access to your data and threatening you with making that data public, which is what’s happening in this case,” Nikiforakis said.

Based on the information available, Nikiforakis said the attackers likely gained access to speeding tickets and various titles, among other sensitive materials. “This is definitely a cause for concern, and that is why, in certain cases, people decide to pay, to avoid this blowback that will come from the data being made publicly available.”

A question of payment

Ransomware raises an ethical dilemma for government officials, namely whether to use public funds to pay a ransom.

“People can take a philosophical approach and say, ‘We don’t negotiate with terrorists,’ and I understand that,” Nikiforakis said, “But then the rational thing for the attacker to do is to make that data available to the public. Because if he doesn’t, then the next victim will also not pay him.” 

The profitability of the ransomware operation depends upon the victim trusting that the criminals will comply with the conditions of the transaction. The ransomware business model would fail if cyberattackers generally went against their word.

For this reason, Nikiforakis said payment and compliance could sometimes be in the interests of both parties. 

“I think it’s a very rational decision to say, ‘Let’s pay and accept this as a financial loss and let’s make sure that this doesn’t happen again,’” he said.

In Suffolk County, however, putting this theoretical framework into action is more complicated. Responsibility for paying ransomware payments would be vested in the Office of the Comptroller, which oversees the county’s finances. 

During an election interview last month with county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), he hinted that compromising with cybercriminals is off the table.

“There is no predicate in the charter, in the New York State County Law, in the Suffolk County code, to take taxpayer money and give it to a criminal,” he said.

‘Technology is moving so quickly that it is incredibly challenging for government to keep up.’ 

— Sarah Anker

The effect on the county’s government operations

The ransomware attack has also aggravated concerns over securing the county’s IT apparatus. Kennedy likened the problem to a fire code, saying fire codes often include provisions for masonry walls and other buffers that reduce the spread of a fire.

“If a fire starts, it doesn’t take down the whole complex. It stops at the masonry wall,” he said. “Our system was not configured with those hard breaks, other than some separation of function out in Riverhead in the County Clerk’s Office.” 

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), whose office was attacked by ransomware in 2017, has advocated for serious IT reform for some time. She followed the county’s technology closely and expressed frustration over how the initial attack occurred.

“I could tell, and I could feel, that there needed to be more done,” she said. “It has hampered the government, it has affected our constituents. Maybe it could have been worse, but it should have never happened.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) explained his office’s many challenges since the hack. Though communications systems are slowly returning online, the initial attack disrupted both external and internal communications within the Sheriff’s Office.

“From a jail and police perspective, it really hindered us in the beginning,” he said. “Emails that we received from other law enforcement agencies or any communication with our community was stopped for a significant amount of time.”

New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency assisted the Sheriff’s Office as Toulon’s staff worked without an operational communication network. Because of this coordination, Toulon maintained that the functions of the jails were more or less appropriately executed.

“We wanted to make sure that any individual that was supposed to be released from our custody was released on time,” the county sheriff said. “No one was incarcerated longer than they had to be.” 

Preparing for the future

Toulon suggested the existing IT network is too centralized and interconnected. To prevent future failure of the entire network, he proposed creating separate silos for each department.

“I feel that the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the [County] Clerk’s Office and the Comptroller’s Office should be totally separate from the County Executive’s Office,” Toulon said, “So if, god forbid, this were to happen again in the future, we wouldn’t be directly impacted like everyone else.”

Anker said she and a newly formed panel of county legislators are beginning to explore ways to harden the network and apply strategies that work elsewhere.

“As we move forward, we need to see what the other municipalities and corporations are doing,” she said. “What types of programs and software do they have that prevent these attacks?”

The rate of software development, according to Anker, is outpacing the ability of governments to respond effectively. While IT departments must remain ahead of the cybercriminals to keep their digital infrastructure safe, staying out front is easier said than done.

“Technology is moving so quickly that it is incredibly challenging for government to keep up,” she said. “I would like to see more accountability in all respects and from everyone as we move forward with new technology.”

While the recent cyberattack focuses on the government, Anker believes ordinary citizens are also at risk from hostile online actors. The county legislator contended more work should be done to alert community members of these dangers.

“Not enough is being done regarding community outreach,” she said. “There needs to be more education on preventing an attack even on your home computer.”

Nikiforakis proposed that greater attention be given to digitizing personal records. According to him, those records in the wrong hands could unleash great harm. 

“Ransomware was a big game-changer for attackers because it allows them to monetize data that would not be traditionally monetizable,” he said. “Through ransomware, suddenly everything that is of value can be monetized.”

The SBU associate professor supports software upgrades, cybersecurity protocols and other measures that protect against ransomware. But, he said, a broader conversation needs to take place about the nature of digitization and whether individuals and governments should store sensitive files online.

“More and more things that didn’t used to be online are suddenly available online,” he said. “We have to reassess the eagerness with which we put everything online and see whether the convenience that we get out of these systems being online is a good return on investment, given the risks.”

By Raymond Janis

It seemed like an ordinary morning in Port Jeff village.

A thick layer of fog hung above the harbor, leaving the smokestacks of the power plant only partially visible from Main Street. Traffic was normal, businesses were open to the public and pedestrians strolled through the blocks and public spaces as usual. 

Despite the relative calm of the village, the decks of a Port Jefferson ferry boat were anything but normal. From inside the boat, one could hear the shriek of a madman, the sporadic fire of blank rounds, and the scrambling of passengers as they hid for cover.

None of these scenes were real, however. These were drills carried out by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and part of a tactical defense education program for ferry staff and crew.

Crew members went through multiple rounds of these drills aboard the Port Jefferson-Bridgeport Ferry, Friday, May 13. The training services are designed to educate staff on proper threat mitigation techniques, instructing them how to disarm potentially dangerous individuals in the event of an emergency.

In one training scenario, two crew members successfully ambushed and disarmed the threat on board, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

James McGuire, company security officer and port captain at the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, said the ferry company holds annual defensive training courses to keep staff properly informed and trained.

“We’re doing some security training here just to get our men ready for the upcoming summer season,” he said. “We like to do annual training and the Sheriff’s department is helping us out with that.” He added, “Basically, they’re helping our crew learn defense tactics for potentially unruly passengers.”

Ultimately, if you can’t avoid or deny, then defend yourself. Do whatever you can to stop the threat.”

— Capt. Scott Walsh

Capt. Scott Walsh of the Sheriff’s Office summarized the department’s intent for these demonstrations. In the event of an active threat, crew members are advised to avoid, deny and defend.

“First, avoid if possible and get away from the threat,” he said, “Second, deny the threat access to you — if you’re in a room, then lock the door and do anything you can to deny the threat access.” He added, “Ultimately, if you can’t avoid or deny, then defend yourself. Do whatever you can to stop the threat.”

The guided training between the Sheriff’s Office and ferry personnel lasted over the span of two days. The first day included what the department calls a threat assessment, which included an evaluation of the boat’s layout to identify the proper training strategies. 

“We came here and did some walk-throughs of the ferry with staff to create a plan for any type of emergency scenario,” Walsh said. 

The second day included the tactical training demonstrations. During this program, the staff were guided by department representatives in a variety of formats.

Passengers were instructed to find cover and get to safety, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

“Beyond doing the scenarios and drills, they also did a classroom session with PowerPoints educating them on different types of response techniques,” said a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. “We’re training everybody on the ferry from top to bottom, from the captain to the first officer, chief engineer and deck hands.” 

In one simulated threat scenario, a man in a hoodie fired blank rounds in the ferry cabin. Crew were instructed first to get any passengers to safety, then to disarm the threat. Hiding behind a locked door, the staff successfully ambushed and disarmed the target, neutralizing the threat on board. 

Andrew Elsalam, deckhand on the ferry, was part of the demonstration. He described his role in the training regimen.

“In this situation, we were instructed to be proactive, to fight and grab anything close to you, like extinguishers and anything that could subdue the target,” he said. “Another crew member and I were behind the door, and as the threat approached my co-worker grabbed the weapon as I grabbed and secured the target, making sure that he was no longer a threat.” 

Elsalam added that training services such as those offered by the Sheriff’s Office give him a sense of confidence when approaching his job. 

“I feel like it’s all about repetition and staying on top of it,” he said. “We do Tuesday drills, such as man overboard, fire emergency and abandoned ship drills. Maybe we can incorporate this into our drills and that way we can become proficient and prepared without having to think twice.”

These training services are available free of charge through the Sheriff’s Office. They are offered for institutions throughout the county that represent a significant public need.

“Sheriff [Errol] Toulon [D] has made it a priority for the Sheriff’s Office to interact and engage with the community,” Walsh said. “The ferry had reached out to us saying that they would like some active threat training, so we were happy to assist with that.”

To learn more about the various programs offered through the Sheriff’s Office, visit www.suffolkcountysheriffsoffice.com.

Sheriff Toulon said he intends to address mental health and substance abuse during his second term. Photo from Toulon’s office

This week, TBR News Media had an exclusive interview with Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D). During our conversation with the sheriff, he addressed his battles with cancer, the challenges of steering the sheriff’s department through a pandemic and his surprising place in the history of the New York Yankees.

Sheriff, what is your professional background and how did you land in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office?

I started my career in 1982 as a New York City correction officer and I worked with the New York City Department of Corrections for 22 years on the uniform side. From 1982 until 2004, I worked on various assignments in numerous jails throughout the department. We had almost 25,000 inmates in our city system back then. I worked in our emergency services unit for almost 10 years. I was a captain there and also a captain in our detectives unit for almost three years before I retired. I also worked in the compliance division toward the end of my career.

I had to leave because I had some health issues. I’m a two-time cancer survivor. Uniquely, after I was able to recover from my illnesses, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s, master’s and I received a doctorate in education. I worked with County Executive [Steve] Bellone [D] as his assistant deputy county executive for public safety for almost two years, where I tell people that I truly got an understanding of the landscape of Suffolk County. Then, I returned back to New York City as the deputy commissioner of operations, overseeing almost all of the operational aspects of the department from 2014 until 2017. I then decided to run for sheriff in September of 2017.

How has your battle with cancer impacted both your outlook on life and the work that you do for Suffolk County?

One of the things that I realized as a two-time cancer survivor is that you never know what the person next to you — whether you’re on the ball field watching kids play or you’re in the movie theater or the supermarket — you don’t know if someone has health issues, financial issues, relationship issues. I think I have become a lot more sympathetic and also empathetic to the plights that people are going through.

Earlier in your career, you worked at Rikers Island. How has that experience shaped your later approach as county sheriff?

My father was a warden on Rikers Island for 36 years, starting off as a correction officer. I remember during one of the early conversations I had with him, I asked him about his employment. He said, ‘We rehabilitate men and women who are in jail.’ That kind of resonated with me throughout my career. 

When I became sheriff, I noticed that almost 85% of the men and women that are in our custody are returning back to our communities. In order to help them and to have less victims in our communities, while we have them within our custody why not try to provide them with the resources so that they can be successful when they return back to our communities?

What are some of the struggles that your department had encountered due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how did you attempt to overcome them?

When I was the deputy commissioner, we had to deal with the H1N1 and Ebola viruses. When we learned about COVID-19 in Washington state in 2020, we started preparing for the possibility of there being an outbreak. By the end of February, we had our plans set. We implemented them around the second week of March because the first [confirmed] case of COVID in New York state was March 1 and the first case in Suffolk County was March 8. By that second week of March, we started implementing measures of social distancing; we had masks that were mandated to be worn; we started doing temperature checks; and we told our staff that if they were not feeling well or had any of the signs of identified symptoms for COVID-19, that they should seek out their health care professionals. 

With the jails, we cleaned our facilities three to four times per day. Inmates were required to wear masks. We were able to “cell skip’’ our inmates, so instead of inmates being in cells 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, they were in cells 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. We did stop visits because, if you remember, [former] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo [D] had said that if we shut down visits for two weeks, we’d be OK. We did shut down our visits for any individuals coming in and for any service providers entering our jails. It proved to be somewhat successful, but we had to do it for longer than we anticipated. 

From March, when we first implemented those measures, until the beginning of December, we only had five inmates that had tested positive — and I should say, three tested positive in the jails, two came into the jail positive. I think we were very successful.

What we also did was that every newly admitted inmate had to go into a quarantine for 14 days while our medical staff checked up on them three or four times a day. We wanted to make sure that our new admission inmates weren’t exposing any inmates that had been in our custody with any potential virus. 

You were recently sworn in for a second term as sheriff. What is your vision for the next four years at the department?

There are three things that I’m working on.

Mental health and substance abuse seem to be the primary traits for the majority of the men and women not only in our custody but throughout the nation’s prisons and jails. We’re working very hard to understand those two components because we want to be able to help those men and women, and even those that are not in jail — maybe there’s no criminal activity in their lifestyles, but they’re still suffering. 

We want to see what we can do, working with various community partners and service providers to look more holistically and see what’s going on. We do understand, even with some of our youth, who we are learning may have adverse childhood experiences, not only are they experiencing mental health and substance abuse in the home, but there are also traumatic issues, domestic violence issues and socioeconomic challenges. Those are the things we intend to focus on.

We’re also looking to create the first network of information sharing for jails and prisons throughout the United States. We think this will be very beneficial. We know that most police departments are sharing information with each other, but jails and prisons throughout the country are not. We want to tap into that resource because if we learn of different trends that are occurring, we can also alert our law enforcement partners to these things that are occurring, specifically in the jails and prisons throughout our region and our country. 

Your office has donated bulletproof vests to the people of Ukraine. What are some of the other philanthropic initiatives that your office has been part of to benefit both Suffolk County and the greater global community?

That was a start by donating those decommissioned vests, but one of the things we are embarking on is that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is now an advisory component to a sheriff’s foundation. This is not run by the Sheriff’s Office, but by a group of individuals. They’re a 501(c)(3) and their goal is to have fundraising events. We do so much in the community that they want to assist us in really helping these kids that are having certain issues. Whether it is donating school supplies or the various community events that we want to do, we want to strengthen the bond between the community and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.

Also, we really want to engage our youth because they are the ones that we want to make sure are on the right path, that they look at law enforcement as a positive role model, and that they maybe even want to come join our forces and work at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.

You are the first African American elected as Suffolk County sheriff. What does that distinction mean to you?

To me, and I know that’s something that has been said to me a lot, my first goal is to be the best sheriff possible, regardless of my race. I do realize that being the first African American not only as sheriff, but the first African American elected to a nonjudicial county-wide position on Long Island, Nassau or Suffolk, it’s something that I’m very cognizant of wherever and whenever I go somewhere. 

I know there are a lot of people looking at me, some favorably and some unfavorably. I think I need to be who I am and not necessarily who people perceive due to the color of my skin. 

Baseball season is now underway and I have learned that you also occupy a place in the history of the New York Yankees. Could you elaborate on this?

Yes. I was fortunate enough in 1979 and 1980 to be a bat boy with the New York Yankees. They had just come off of back-to-back World Series championships in 1977 and 1978. Tragically, in 1979 our captain, Thurman Munson, was killed in a plane crash and we fell short of making the playoffs that year. Subsequently, in 1980 we did make the playoffs, but we lost three straight to the Kansas City Royals. In the third game, I was the ball boy down the right field line watching George Brett hit a three-run homer off of Goose Gossage, which went into the upper deck. I realized then that my career as a bat boy had quickly come to an end. 

What are your thoughts on Aaron Judge’s contract fiasco? 

I hope they do sign him. I think he’s proven to be not only a great ballplayer when he’s not injured, but more importantly a great role model. Mr. [Joe] DiMaggio and Mr. [George] Steinbrenner — both of whom I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with — would say that he is the type of person they would want to be a Yankee for his entire career, very similar to Derek Jeter.

Sheriff, thank you for taking this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to say to our local readers?

Yes. I firmly believe that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is changing the paradigm of criminal justice, not just in Suffolk County but throughout New York state. We’re continuing to look for partners, both from the governmental side but also the community side, to make sure that we are not only able to engage but also help those that need us. That’s why we’re here. We’re really here to help our community.

By Rita J. Egan and Julianne Mosher

Election night, Nov. 2, found many Democratic candidates gathering at the IBEW Local 25 union hall in Hauppauge, while Republicans attended a get together at Stereo Garden in Patchogue. The Hauppauge event was a more somber one as some Democrats in the county lost their seats, while other races were close ones.

Rich Schaffer, who heads up the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said Tuesday night’s results spoke more about what was happening on the national level than about the candidates.

“This was just, as you see, a big wave that took out some really good elected officials, and if you were a challenger, you had even a steeper row to hoe as opposed to an easy time, like we’ve normally been able to do,” he said.

While candidates and supporters eagerly awaited the results of in-person votes, the final tallies may not be known in some races for a few weeks due to the Suffolk County Board of Elections still needing to count absentee ballots. Results are as of the morning of Nov. 3.

Suffolk County district attorney

The race between county District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and prosecutor Ray Tierney, who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines, was a contentious one. At the forefront, Tierney questioned whether Sini has been as tough on crime as the DA himself has said, especially regarding the MS-13 gang.

At the end of the night, Tierney emerged the winner with 154,569 votes (57.34%). Sini garnered 114,943 (42.64%). Sini was first elected to the position in 2017.

“I am proud and humbled to stand before you here today,” Tierney said during his victory speech. “Despite being running against an incumbent, despite not having a lot of money in the beginning, despite not having the support of a lot of institutions — not for one day did I feel like an underdog, because of you guys.”

Tierney added his goal is to “fight every day to keep the citizens of Suffolk County safe.”

“I will reach out into the community to develop relationships so we can all have faith in our district attorney’s office,” he said.

Suffolk County sheriff

Errol Toulon Jr. (D) has been county sheriff since 2017 and was seeking his second term this election season. His opponent, William Amato, who ran on the Republican ticket, was not actively campaigning.

At the end of the night, Toulon was declared the winner with 142,510 (54.28%). Amato received 119,947 (45.69%).

Toulon Tuesday night was overwhelmed as he thanked those in attendance at the union hall.

“I do want to thank all of you for your constant support, not just your support now, but over the last four years of talking to me and encouraging me during some difficult circumstances in taking over the sheriff’s office, and I hope to do a better job over the next four years than I did over the last four years,” Toulon said. 

Suffolk County legislators

County Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) won his seat for the 4th Legislative District with 8,748 votes (71.52%). Caracappa took on the role during a special election in 2020 following the death of Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma). The incumbent’s opponent, Dawn Sharrock, on the Democratic ticket, had a total of 3,476 votes (28.42%).

“I’m looking forward to​​ making real changes,” Caracappa said. “All the families here work hard and they deserve this victory — not just for the Republicans, this is for everybody. It’s a victory for Suffolk County — it’s a victory for the hardworking middle class.”

Sharrock said Tuesday night she sees herself running for office again.

“I honestly feel like I’ve learned so much,” she said. “I’ve grown so much. I’ve learned even just so much about myself. It’s been an experience that I’m so glad I was able to have. I’ve been surrounded by so many wonderful people, so many people who have supported me, never doubting my ability. It’s inspiring, and it’s uplifting. I have two daughters, a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old, and they’re so inspired by my journey and that means so much.”

Caracappa said he hopes that Sharrock continues to serve her community.

“It’s not easy to do that,” he said. “I respect anybody who wants to make positive change.”

The race in the county’s 5th District, which includes the Three Village Area and Port Jefferson, is a tight one. County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was in the lead with 7,582 votes (50.25%). Salvatore Isabella, who ran on the Republican ticket and did not actively campaign, had 7,508 votes (49.75%).

The night was a nail-biter for Hahn, who is up for her sixth term.

“I am cautiously optimistic that once all the votes are counted, voters will return me to office and I’ll be honored to continue to serve my community,” Hahn said in a statement Wednesday morning. “I look forward to continuing my work to protect our Long Island way of life and make a difference for our working families.”

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was seeking her sixth term in office. The incumbent trailed with 7,141 votes (42.10%). Town of Brookhaven employee Brendan Sweeney won the race with 8,329 votes (49.11%). The newcomer ran on the Republican ticket. Conservative candidate Anthony DeSimone garnered 1,488 votes (8.77%).

Sweeney declared victory during Tuesday night’s event.

“It feels so good,” he said. “The voters spoke. They want change for this county and now with me and the rest of the newly elected legislators, we can do what’s best for the people.”

Anker said she was hoping to continue as she has many projects she would like to complete.

“I’ll continue to do something to stay in the area of helping people, that’s my goal, my priority, and I appreciate all those people that came out to vote,” she said. “But this was, I think, a national tsunami.”

The legislator added her 6th District is a Republican area, and it has always been an uphill battle for her.

“I’m just very fortunate to have served as long as I have, over 10 years, and do all the projects and initiatives that I have,” she said.

In the 12th District which includes parts of the Town of Smithtown, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach, county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) won her fourth term in office with 12,629 votes (74.57%). Her opponent Mike Siderakis, who ran unsuccessfully for state senator against Mario Mattera (R-St. James) last year, stopped actively campaigning this summer. Siderakis obtained 4,301 votes (25.40%).

Kennedy said during her victory speech at Stereo Garden that the win proves how well the party works together.

“We work hard, we have good values and we stand together as a team,” she said.

County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) garnered 10,896 votes (53.09%) and won his fifth term in office. Also on the ballot were Democrat Kevin Mulholland, who didn’t actively campaign, and won 4,693 votes (22.87%), and Michael Simonelli on the Conservative ticket, who campaigned but didn’t debate Trotta this election season. Simonelli had 4,932 votes (24.03%).

The district includes parts of Smithtown as well as Fort Salonga and portions of Commack and East Northport.

Trotta in an email statement said, “I am thrilled and honored that the people of the 13th Legislative District did not pay attention to the outright lies made by the police unions, of which my Conservative opponent was the treasurer, and [the people] voted for me based upon my record of fighting for the taxpayers, working for fiscal stability and helping my constituents.”

The 18th District, which sits in the Town of Huntington, included candidates Mark Cuthbertson (D), currently serving as Huntington Town councilman, and Stephanie Bontempi, a newcomer to the political field. The two decided to vie for the seat after county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) decided not to run this year. He is currently facing charges for allegedly trading oxycodone for sex.

Bontempi emerged the winner with 11,419 votes (53.89%), while Cuthbertson 9,765 votes (46.08%).

“Today is a new day for Suffolk County,” she said. “With this victory, we readily flipped the balance of power in the Legislature. We changed the list of priorities. Our neighbors and the community have chosen accountability, transparency and integrity. They’ve chosen a peer over an insider. I cannot wait to get started in working with my new colleagues.”

Cuthbertson said he never says never, but he doesn’t see himself going back to town politics currently. He said he was glad he ran for county legislator.

“We laid it all out there, and I’m at peace with how much we did,” he said.

Town of Brookhaven

Incumbent Donna Lent (R) faced Ira Costell (D) running for town clerk of the Town of Brookhaven. Lent, who is serving her second term as town clerk, has managed day-to-day operations such as issuing death certificates and handicap parking permits, while land-use applications are filed within the office.

Costell has taken leadership roles in environmental causes such as the Suffolk County Watershed Protection Advisory Committee and served as chair of the county’s Pine Barrens Review Commission. He has been passionate about the fight against opioid addiction and prescription drug abuse.

Lent won her seat with 54,318 votes (67.91%), while Costell had 25,642 (32.06%).

Town of Smithtown

Incumbent Ed Wehrheim (R) faced Democrat and newcomer to the political field Maria Scheuring in the race for Smithtown supervisor. The incumbent has been a part of town government for nearly 50 years. He won his first term as supervisor in 2017 after beating out Patrick Vecchio (R) who served in the position for nearly four decades.

Scheuring, an attorney, grew up in the Bronx, and moved to Smithtown in 2006 where she has a private practice dealing in matters from guardianship to visiting clients in nursing homes to looking over music contracts.

Smithtown residents voted back in Wehrheim Nov. 2. The incumbent had 20,446 votes (75.01%), while Scheuring garnered 6,806 (24.97%).

In an email statement, Wehrheim said he was humble and grateful for the support.

“Our first election cycle we set out to talk with the people in the community,” he said. “We didn’t preach or promise. We simply asked, ‘What do you want from your local leaders?’ We then devoted these past four years to delivering for the community. We didn’t kick the can and wait for help when COVID-19 inflicted its wrath upon us. We looked at every obstacle as an opportunity. I believe that the voting public visually and physically sees what we’ve accomplished in a short period of time: the parks, athletic fields, community entertainment, downtown improvements. They want more and we are eager to deliver.”

Scheuring said Tuesday night she learned a lot during the campaign and just how complicated it can be. The newcomer to the political field said she is interested in seeking office in the future, and she said regarding a position such as town supervisor the issues aren’t Democratic or Republican.

“It’s more, ‘Do we think this is the best for the town?’” she said.

Town of Smithtown councilmembers, Lynne Nowick (R) and Tom McCarthy (R), regained their seats with 19.833 votes (37.46%) for Nowick and 19,753 votes (37.31%) for McCarthy. Democratic candidates, Dylan Rice and Marc Etts, did not actively campaign and received 6,965 (13.16%) and 6,378 votes (12.05%) respectively.

Nowick thanked voters for putting their trust in her in an email statement.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Town Board to keep Smithtown the alluring town that it is,” she said. “Quality of life in Smithtown is the highest priority. We will all continue to preserve our beautiful parks, beaches, golf courses and clean up any eyesores to keep Smithtown beautiful.”

McCarthy said in an email statement the voters sent a loud and clear message, and “it was a great night, not just for us but for all of Long Island.”

“I am extremely grateful to the Smithtown voters for their continued support and am eager to devote these next four years to delivering for the constituency,” he said. “We’re on the cusp of some big improvements coming to Smithtown, with a timeline to sewering Smithtown in place, a shovel in the ground in Kings Park, slated for January and St. James has never looked so good. We’re going to finish what we started and then some, creating an ideal community for our young professionals, families and seniors to call home indefinitely.”

Vincent Puleo ran unopposed for town clerk, and Robert Murphy was also the lone name on the ballot for superintendent of highways.

Town of Huntington

Two councilmen and a newcomer were on the ballots for Town of Huntington supervisor after current town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) decided not to seek reelection. Councilmen Ed Smyth (R) and Eugene Cook, who ran as a third-party Independent candidate, gained 25,409 (56.34%) and 1,746 (3.87%) votes, respectively.

Democratic candidate Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of nonprofit Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, had 17,940 votes (39.78%).

With councilmen Cuthbertson running for county legislator and Smyth running for town supervisor, two seats were up for grabs on the Town Board. Candidates David Bennardo and Sal Ferro ran on the Republican and Conservative party lines, while Joseph Schramm and Jennifer Hebert ran on the Democratic ticket. Bennardo and Ferro emerged the winners with 26,669 (30.46%) and 25,206 (28.79%), respectively. Hebert had 18,335 votes (20.94%) and Schramm 17,328 (19.79%).

Andre Sorrentino beat out incumbent Kevin Orelli for superintendent of highways with 25,565 votes (56.69%). Orelli garnered 19,524 (43.29%).

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

Errol Toulon Jr. (D) is running again for his seat as the Suffolk County sheriff with the hope to continue his efforts providing aid services for nonviolent inmates alongside the office’s law enforcement work with gangs and sex trafficking. 

Toulon’s opponent, William Amato, who is running on the Republican ticket, did not respond to multiple requests for a debate with TBR staff. The Suffolk County GOP office confirmed Amato is not actively campaigning.

Toulon, who has cross-party endorsements from both the Suffolk Democratic and Conservative parties, said his job as head of his department is “to take the brunt of everything, good and bad. And during these real challenging times, I have to ask, ‘How do I keep my staff calm, how do I keep them safe, how do I feel like they’re still valued?’” And compared to his previous positions in corrections, his current job gives him a satisfaction he hasn’t had before.

“I have a job now that directly impacts the community that I live and work in,” he said.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is the law enforcement branch dedicated to managing Suffolk’s jail system. Along with handling inmate populations, the office’s sheriff deputies are responsible for patrolling roadways alongside Suffolk County Police Department, investigating crimes committed on county property as well as managing the Pine Barrens protection hotline. The Sheriff’s Office also contains several specialized bureaus and sections for emergency management, DWI enforcement, domestic violence, among others.

Toulon, a former Rikers Island officer and captain, was voted into his first four-year term as sheriff in 2017 and was the first Black man elected to the role in the county’s history. Over those four years, his office has been involved with several high-profile drug and gang investigations, which included fact-finding trips to El Salvador and Los Angeles to investigate the connections of MS-13 to Long Island. He is proud of his office’s accomplishments, including his work with the office’s human trafficking unit and the creation of the START Resource Center, which provides inmates leaving county jails with employment and housing assistance as well as drug treatment and mental health care services.

But the year 2020 would throw a monkey wrench into all best-laid plans. Toulon said last year started out rough with the change to New York’s bail reform laws. Then the COVID-19 pandemic created a host of new challenges, especially safeguarding prison populations as well as corrections officers. 

During COVID’s height, officers kept inmates largely separated, which resulted in a minimal number of reported cases in Suffolk jails. Still, the year did have its share of tragedies, including the loss of Investigator Sgt. Keith Allison, a 25-year veteran of the office who died from issues relating to the virus in December. Recently, the Sheriff’s Office had to cancel its open house and family day due to staff shortages and the spread of the Delta variant. The sheriff’s website reports that, in September, 29 inmates tested positive for COVID, where 26 of those reportedly contracted the virus while in jail. Inmates are required to quarantine in a special housing pod for 14 days before being moved to general housing. Staff must take temperature checks and wear masks when coming into the facilities.

And all these extra protections have exacerbated current staffing shortages. Toulon said the Sheriff’s Office is currently down around 180 corrections officers and 43 sheriff’s deputies.

The recruitment struggle is one felt across many industries, law enforcement not excluded, though Toulon said his office has a uniquely difficult time getting people to apply, to have applicants pass the required tests and then to keep them on after they’ve had a taste of what can be a trying job at times. The challenge in recruiting is partially due to what he said has been a degradation of trust between law enforcement and the community since the start of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. The Suffolk sheriff has also seen more senior officers retire because of health concerns during the pandemic, and because of COVID they were not able to host any new police classes last year. 

Though there are currently over 1,700 people who are ready to take the next law enforcement exam in November, the expected acceptance rate is normally around just 15% to 20%, Toulon said. This lack of staff also has the effect of increasing required overtime for current officers, leading to faster burnout. 

“Sometimes, even when you get through the entire process and they have their first days in a jail when they’re working a lot of overtime, having to deal with inmates … it becomes challenging on the individual, especially someone that’s not used to it,” the sheriff said.

It’s another stress on a system that he said requires more financial help to truly give aid to the transient, nonviolent jail populations who need it. Toulon would like to see more psychologists and psychiatrists within the jail providing counseling, though there’s currently no budget for it.

“The mental health institutions throughout New York state were closed in the 1980s or 1990s, and so these individuals are winding up in jail, but [state government] never funded the jails,” he said. “The staffing model for the Sheriff’s Office was really from a 1960s or ’70s version, and it hasn’t been updated to what we need to do to address the particular individuals in our custody.”

Though the sheriff said their new initiatives have not increased the office’s budget, he is still banging the drum for more funding. Suffolk County reportedly received approximately $286 million in aid from the federal American Rescue Plan back in May, though Toulon said they have not received any percentage of those funds. County spokesperson Derek Poppe said in an email that no ARP money is slated to go to the sheriff’s department.

Challenges still exist for Suffolk jails due to the pandemic. Corrections officers are still required to wear masks on their shifts. At the same time, only around 40% of corrections officers are currently vaccinated. There is no legal requirement for Suffolk law enforcement to be vaccinated in order to work, and while Toulon is fully vaccinated, he said he told his staff to consult their primary care physicians to make that determination.

“I understand it’s an individual’s choice at the moment,” he said. 

The number of people incarcerated in Suffolk jails hovers around 780, according to the sheriff, though that population is transient, and can change from day to day. The Sheriff’s Office, through the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, has tried to provide vaccinations for its inmates, leading to around 350 so far. Still, only approximately 30% to 40% of that jail population is currently vaccinated. “All we can do is just try to encourage the inmates to at least receive the vaccine — hopefully help them learn a little bit more if they’re a little skeptical before making that decision,” he said.

As for the future, the sheriff said he wants to work hard to make sure that the majority of the inmate population — all those who are nonviolent and not a danger to the community — receive the social services they need.

“Everybody should be held accountable for their actions, I should be very clear on that, and [incarceration] is necessary for those who would do harm to be removed from society,” Toulon said. “But those men and women that are going through domestic violence, substance abuse — we have many victims of human trafficking that are in our custody, many females that we’re working with — we want to help them, empower them so that they can support themselves and support their families.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Anthony Frasca

In a ceremony this past January at the Van Nostrand Theater on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) swore in Errol Toulon Jr. (D-Lake Grove) as the 67th Suffolk County sheriff.

Toulon, whose father is a retired Rikers Island warden, spent many years as a Rikers Island corrections officer and went on to become an aide to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). In that position, Toulon supervised numerous public safety departments including fire, rescue and emergency services.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., second from right, joined by his wife Tina, right, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during his inauguration Jan. 12. Photo by Kevin Redding

Ralph Grasso has spent 31 years in law enforcement and is a close personal friend of Toulon. Grasso said he met Toulon at their children’s soccer game 27 years ago, and they struck up a conversation that led to a long-term friendship.

“He was in corrections, and I was an NYPD police officer,” Grasso said. “We hit it off and became friends. He is the godfather of my daughter.”

He said he knew Toulon would excel when it came to being sheriff.

“Knowing him, and how he perseveres through just about anything, I knew he would take this role and take it above and beyond,” Grasso said. “We speak a lot on the issues that correlate from the city to where I am now in the waterfront commission and the surrounding areas. He’s cognizant of everything that goes on, especially the gang issue.”

First Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas said Toulon can often be found out in the communities and the schools throughout Suffolk County with an outreach program he established.

“He dedicates at least two days a week to go to schools to talk about vaping, bullying and gangs,” Kuehhas said. “He goes himself and speaks to the younger ones in the middle schools.”

The undersheriff said Toulon also increased the number of officers in the county’s gang resistance program, where officers spend time with middle school students for a whole semester.

“It serves a lot of purposes,” Kuehhas said. “One is students are no longer apprehensive when they see a uniformed officer because some of them grow up with a negative connotation of a uniformed officer. But when they are in the schools every day, they see that the officers are just like their dads, and they are teachers and many times kids confide in the officers when they get to know them about things we can actually investigate or to help them.”

‘His mind is always racing. He’s always wanting to better the sheriff’s office. It’s really pleasant to know that he’s trying to better your agency.’

—Steve Kuehhas

Grasso said Toulon has placed the best of the best in the office and has taken on the role of sheriff head on.

“He’s a rare breed where he actually looks at the outside people and what they have to deal with,” Grasso said.

With a goal of improving the mission of the sheriff’s office, Toulon has looked to uncover talents already existing within the department.

“What Sheriff Toulon has done is increased some of the specialized units within the sheriff’s office on both corrections and deputies,” Kuehhas said. “He is also very attuned to education. He’s actively looking for officers with backgrounds in certain areas or specialties like analytics or education.”

Toulon’s approach to the sheriff’s office has been to engage actively and do what it takes to improve morale too.

“He’s nonstop,” Kuehhas said. “His mind is always racing. He’s always wanting to better the sheriff’s office. It’s really pleasant to know that he’s trying to better your agency.”

Kuehhas added that Toulon is always among the officers in the jails and stops in on holidays with Kuehhas and Undersheriff Kevin Catalina.

On a personal note, Sheriff Toulon is a two-time cancer survivor, and his battles with cancer have inspired him to continue his mission to help others.

“He’s an avid hockey player and a Penguins fan,” Grasso said. “He actually wears the number 66 because he also had Hodgkin’s disease along with Mario Lemieux from the Penguins.”

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The landing page of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office's new website. TBR News Media

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has launched a redesigned website at www.suffolksheriff.com. The project was one of newly-elected Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.’s first priorities, saying he wanted to ensure that the public had easy access to information, like visiting and bail instructions; filing for income and property executions; volunteer and intern opportunities; and the wide array of special programs offered by the sheriff’s office.

A look at some of the services available from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. TBR News Media

“The redesigned website is easier to navigate and contains information on so many of the services that we offer to the public,” Toulon said. “I wanted it to be user-friendly, informative and modern, and I think we hit the mark.”

One of Toulon’s priorities is educating the public about substance abuse, with a focus on prevention. Links to resources are available directly from the homepage.

“I intend to be very outspoken about the drug epidemic, and we will be continually posting information and updates on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube,” Toulon said. All of the sheriff’s social media accounts are accessible to users navigating through the site.

The sheriff’s office offers Personal Jail Tours for young people, and a tracking device called Project Lifesaver that provides another level of safety for individuals that wander due to cognitive impairments.

Incumbents win back Brookhaven, Suffolk County legislator seats

The race between Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon appears to be over. Photo on left by Alex Petroski; photo on right by Rita J. Egan

By Desirée Keegan

In a landslide victory, Suffolk County will have a new district attorney, and with that a new chief of police.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) defeated Ray Perini (R) with 62.08 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 general election. Perini, who came up with 106,773 votes, ran a contentious campaign against Sini, who campaigned as a reformer hoping to restore reliability to the office.

“Together we have ushered in a new era of criminal justice in Suffolk County, an era of integrity, fairness and doing the right thing,” Sini told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Hauppauge. “We are going to return the office to the honorable institution it once was.”

With Sini’s victory, he will leave his post at the start of 2018, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) will appoint a new police commissioner.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini talks to supporters after learning about his landslide win for district attorney. Photo by Greg Catalano

“I will immediately begin to assemble a top-notch transition team consisting of local and federal officials,” Sini continued. “This team will conduct a thorough top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top assessment of the office and we will do whatever it takes to ensure the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office works for the people. Under my administration, the office will work for the people and not politics. For far too long this office has been used as a tool for those who are politically connected. That ends today.”

The race for the new sheriff in town was too close to call at the end of election night, with Democrat Errol Toulon, a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, holding a slim lead over Republican Larry Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University. The last update from the Suffolk County Board of Election’s unofficial results showed Toulon had 141,006 votes to Zacarese’s 139,652.

Toulon said he believes he will maintain his advantage.

“I feel very confident,” he said from the IBEW Local 25 building in Hauppauge. “I feel incredibly overwhelmed with the support considering I have only been in this race for five-and-a-half weeks, and the people of Suffolk County recognize they want someone with experience, and I feel confident that when the absentee ballots are counted I will be sheriff of Suffolk County.”

Zacarese said he knew it was down to the wire, and couldn’t wait to see the results once the 15,000 absentee ballots are counted.

“For anybody here who knows me, you know I don’t do anything the easy way, so what else did you expect?” he said. “This is far from over. We’re going to get to work starting tomorrow.”

Incumbents swept Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town in TBR News Media’s coverage area on election night.

In the most contested legislative race on the North Shore, incumbent 6th District Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) edged out Rocky Point resident and local business owner Gary Pollakusky to secure her fourth term. After winning by 17 votes in the 2015 election, Anker finished the evening with 10,985 (54.93 percent) votes to Pollakusky’s 9,004 (45.03 percent).

Diane and Ed Romaine celebrate the Brookhaven Town supervisor’s re-election. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We had such an amazing victory, and this shows you all the hard work that I do, that my office does,” Anker said. “This is what we do — we are public servants. We work for the people. The people make a decision to vote and it’s a victory for everyone. There are so many initiatives and projects that I started and I want to continue with.”

Pollakusky thanked the members of his team for their hard work in putting together what he called a “great campaign.”

“Blood sweat and tears,” he said went into his preparation for election night. “Really, we ran a great race.”

In the 5th District, Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is looking forward to continuing her environmental work. She came through with 63.39 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Ed Flood, who finished with 36.56 percent of the vote.

“I love our community, and I work hard every day to make a difference and to help people,” Hahn said. “I’m just thrilled to be able to continue to do that.”

Returnee Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) claimed her second term in office at the helm of the 12th District with an overwhelming 67.40 percent of the vote to challenger Kevin Hyms’ 32.55 percent.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was in a race that nearly doubled in turnout total from the last time he ran. With 61.9 percent of the vote, the longtime politician secured his seventh and eighth year as the head of the town.

“Thank you to all of the voters in Brookhaven,” he said from Stereo Garden LI in Patchogue. “Thank you for the overwhelming mandate for myself and all those who ran with us. We got the message. We’re going to keep on making sure that taxes stay low, we’re going to keep on moving Brookhaven forward, we’re going to keep on doing the right thing.”

Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also secured their seats.

Voters anxiously and nervously watch results come in. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cartright, representing the 1st District, won with 60.3 percent of the vote to Republican James Canale’s 39.66 percent.

“I am just extremely humbled and honored to have been given this amazing opportunity,” Canale said. “I may have lost, but you can not keep me down. I will be back and I will be better than ever.”

Bonner, representing the 2nd District, said she was happy with her win. She pulled away with 63.54 percent of the vote to Coram resident and software developer Mike Goodman’s 36.43 percent.

In the town’s 3rd Council District, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) lauded what he called “amazing results” (65.53 percent of the votes).

“Well I guess the word is out — good Republican government is back in Brookhaven,” LaValle said. “I look back at this town board — this is a great team we have here with supervisor Romaine, highway superintendent [Dan] Losquadro — this is a team that’s going to get the job done and has gotten the job done for the residents of Brookhaven.”

Losquadro (R) maintained his highway superintendent title, securing 60.32 percent of the votes to Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy’s 39.65 percent. Donna Lent (I) will remain town clerk with a 57.26  to 42.7 percent win over Democrat Cindy Morris.

Lent said of the results, “when you run on your record and you run on your integrity you always win.”

Rita J. Egan and Alex Petroski contributed reporting

Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon are vying for the Suffolk County sheriff position. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Rita J. Egan

Both candidates for Suffolk County sheriff will bring more than two decades of public service experience to the position if elected. The race does not feature an incumbent, as current Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco announced in May he wouldn’t seek re-election after 12 years in the position. On Oct. 13, Republican candidate for sheriff Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon visited the TBR News Media office to discuss their experiences and how they would handle the position if elected.

Zacarese, assistant chief of police and director of the office of emergency management at Stony Brook University since 2009, who is also an attorney, has been a New York City police officer and is currently a volunteer paramedic.

Toulon began serving as a correctional officer at Rikers Island in 1982 and retired as a captain in 2004. For two years he was assistant deputy county executive for public safety in Suffolk and in 2014 he was named deputy commissioner of operations for the New York City  Department of Corrections.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot on various levels inside of a correctional agency, and while that’s not the entire makeup of the sheriff’s department, it is a good portion of it.”

— Errol Toulon

Toulon said he feels from day one he would be able to manage the sheriff’s office effectively and will attempt to save taxpayers’ dollars through technology training and equipment.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot on various levels inside of a correctional agency, and while that’s not the entire makeup of the sheriff’s department, it is a good portion of it,” Toulon said.

Zacarese said he believes his experience would be an asset, especially with a need for capital planning, budgeting and managing grants in today’s tough economic climate, he said.

“My role as an emergency manager at Stony Brook is really broad based,” Zacarese said. “Not only am I involved in the day-to-day operations, planning, mitigation and response and recovery, but I oversee an office that handles all the electronic physical security, design, installation and maintenance for the entire campus, which is over 250 buildings.”

Both cited combating gang activities on Long Island as a priority for the next sheriff.

Toulon said his team at Rikers would gather intelligence from inside the jail as far as calls, visits and social media interactions before incarceration and then would work with law enforcement agencies to gather and disseminate the information. According to him, his team’s work brought down 37 members of the Bloods gang. He said using a database to collect intelligence gathered and sharing it with other agencies is vital in rounding up gang members, and he said he thought his experiences could translate seamlessly to the Suffolk position.

Zacarese is also familiar with combating gang problems. A case he worked on while at a precinct in Jackson Heights involved the investigation of narcotics trafficking by members of the Latin Kings. He said the county lost critical ground in the fight against gangs when the FBI removed two Suffolk County police detectives assigned to the bureau’s joint Long Island Gang Task Force by James Burke, former police department chief, who was found guilty of beating up a suspect and trying to cover it up.

“I have already had conversations and meetings with Homeland Security investigations, with people on the U.S. Marshals’ task force and making sure we have enough people on those task forces,” Zacarese said.

Toulon agreed with Zacarese that in addition to disseminating information, manpower is important.

“Task forces are very important, and keeping our members on these task forces is extremely important,” Toulon said.

“I have already had conversations and meetings with Homeland Security investigations, with people on the U.S. Marshals’ task force and making sure we have enough people on those task forces.”

— Larry Zacarese

The candidates touched on the subject of cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both said while the sheriff’s office doesn’t get involved with immigration issues, it’s important to cooperate with the federal agency. Zacarese said many illegal immigrants are held in jails due to being violent predicate felons and people who return to the country illegally after being deported. The two also agreed it’s important for law enforcement agencies to increase communication with immigrant communities to ensure law abiding citizens do not fear deportation from ICE agents, which makes building cases against gang members more difficult.

Both candidates said they want to work on getting more help for those with substance abuse problems while incarcerated, which may decrease the chances of being arrested again.

“There are people who are leaving the correctional facility without so much as a business card for a social worker or any outreach programs [now],” Zacarese said.

Toulon said while substance abusers are seen by a medical staff to be treated, he agreed when prisoners leave the jail, they need assistance with finding housing and jobs.

“What I propose is creating a resource map so in each particular town we would know where those particular resources are for an individual so when we give them a card or give them the information they would be able to connect and have someone in the sheriff’s they can call and be that conduit,” Toulon said.

Both agreed that combating the drug problem, especially opioid overdoses, needs to be a priority in the county. Better tracking of overdoses; where they are happening, how they’re happening and deaths due to overdoses to identify where people need help, were areas each candidate brought up as meaningful first steps. Zacarese said he believes in enforcing the laws on the books and “strict enforcement for the suppliers, help for the people who are there in the middle and giving them long-term treatment options.”

Toulon pointed out that increasing monitoring of physicians who dispense pain management is also needed and fostering communication with communities “to actually acknowledge the problem that our family and friends are having so that we can get the correct treatment for them.”