Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The election campaign for Rockland sheriff between incumbent Louis Falco and challenger Richard Vasquez is not for the weak of heart — or those expecting issues to dominate.
Accusations and personal attacks have been the hallmark of the contest for the four-year position.
Most recently, Vasquez blamed Falco for being behind Vasquez's suspension from his day job in Woodbury, where he serves as police chief.
The sheriff oversees both a patrol and civil division, the county jail and special units, like the bomb squad and intelligence unit. The sheriff gets paid $143,322 annually.
Falco, an officer for 37 years, won election in November 2011, succeeding James Kralik, who had been the sheriff for 20 years.
"I have not taken one shot at this man," Falco said. "I have not done one negative mailing. I am taking this all the way to the wire on my record."
Vasquez, who turns 45 a day after Election Day, said Falco and his supporters have attacked him personally and promoted innuendo.
Vasquez said Falco knew of problems he was having with the town supervisor in Woodbury and his planned suspension even before the events unfurled. Vasquez also blames Falco for circulating information about a police call to his homein April 2014 after a dispute with his daughter turned physical. Police made no arrests.
"The primary issue is our taxes are going through the roof," Vasquez said. He criticized Falco for having two undersheriffs, a structure he said is found elsewhere only in the larger Suffolk County sheriff's department. He also questioned the value of having a patrol unit that competes and overlaps with other police departments.
Vasquez has been Woodbury police chief for three years. He got the job after serving 20 years with the New York City Police Department, including stints as a commanding officer of the detective squad. He received the NYPD's second highest honor, the "Combat Cross," for extraordinary heroism.
He holds a master's degree in criminal justice from John Jay College and teaches at Rockland Community College. He's seeking a second masters in public administration with a focus on ethical management.
Vasquez's own campaign, as well as his supporters in the jail union and the Rockland Republican Party, have sent out political mailings and ads accusing Falco of placating Ramapo's Hasidic Jewish community at the expense of other residents, mismanaging the jail, mistreating correction officers and failing to hire minorities.
Vasquez said the 70-officer sheriff's patrol unit is made up almost entirely of white men, with the exception of two Hispanic officers and two women. He said people get promoted and hired based upon their family history and connections.
The Rockland Republican Party in April ran a 30-second video ad for Vasquez - "Where Does Louis Falco Stand on Illegal Housing?" - with a photo of Falco with Hasidic Jews celebrating his election four years ago. The video was rebuked by the Anti-Defamation League.
Vasquez maintained Monday that Falco has shied away from taking action on illegal housing, especially when the housing is owned by religious Jews.
Falco and his supporters have responded that those aren't criminal cases and that police lack jurisdiction in such matters.
Falco said Monday that he protects all Rockland residents. He said if his office is asked to back up town police at parades or holiday celebrations, he does.
"I am not backing away from my responsibility of providing equal protection for all," Falco said.
Falco said he's modernized aspects of the Sheriff's office and county jail, while saving taxpayers $2 million by cracking down on overtime and sick days at the facility. Falco said he added 911 emergency texting for residents and refurbished the jail with new chairs, desks, and flooring, using $900,000 in government grants and money forfeited by criminals in court cases.
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