LEHIGH COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Q. What do you see as your greatest accomplishment since taking office in 2016?
A. Humbly, I believe there have been a number of accomplishments we have made in the sheriff’s office since my arrival. Initially, in an effort to standardize and professionalize our policies, procedures and law enforcement practices, we enrolled our agency in the state accreditation process (Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission). We expect to complete that process within the next few years. Our mission with all of this is to eventually reside among the best law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth.
We have established a model for cross training throughout the office where we are exposing all our deputies, security staff and administrative personnel to different aspects of what our office is responsible for on a daily basis. For example, we are training our court deputies in the operations of our warrant division. Our goal is to offer as much cross training office-wide as possible.
Through the gracious support of the county commissioners, we established a K-9 program, the first of its kind in the history of the Lehigh County Sheriff’s Office. Our K-9 is trained in explosives detection and human scent tracking.
We will have a totally new look with new uniforms and newly designed emblems in the very near future.
We made improvements and upgrades to our rank structure and command staff. To that end, our goal is to have professional oversight and a chain of command structure that assists our personnel with all the day-to-day operations and needs.
We have instituted a recruiting system with an emphasis on attracting professional individuals to the sheriff’s office that are a composite of the demographics of our communities in Lehigh County. For example, we have several deputies and other personnel who are bilingual and speak multiple languages.
The accomplishments realized in the sheriff’s office ultimately reside with all of our personnel, and not necessarily myself. I view it as a collaborative team effort.
Q. What steps have you taken to ensure the safety of your deputies in light of the recent shootings, not only in Lehigh County in 1992 but in the nation more recently?
A. We constantly emphasize and strive for deputy safety throughout our office on a daily basis. We conduct three daily inspections with our deputies, which includes safety measures and precautionary warnings to deputies on current events. In addition, we have increased and improved our in-service training for deputies in several areas of their essential job functions.
Q. Do your deputies come to you with concerns or ideas to make the department better? Can you give examples?
A. Yes, I encourage feedback from all levels of our structure on a regular basis, which includes line deputies, administrative personnel, command and clerical staff. In doing so, personnel provide valued input, which allows me to make the best-informed decisions for our office. For example, I assembled a committee on exploring new uniforms. Ultimately, the committee was created in an effort for me to obtain feedback on what types of uniforms would be appropriate. Their feedback included emblems, colors, markings and type(s) of uniform(s). Additionally, we do ask for input from our staff at our daily inspections.
Q. How often do you and your team meet to talk about issues involving the department?
A. We meet on a daily basis with our personnel at our morning meetings. Our command staff typically meets daily as well as prior to those daily meetings. Communication is the key to our overall success.
Q. You meet with children in schools frequently. What types of questions do they ask you?
A. As a part of our community outreach program, we assist local police departments at community events and we do outreach programs in our schools. Depending on age, students are very tuned into current events and technologies. Students seem to love meeting the deputies in uniform and putting a face with a name. They enjoy having our deputies and command staff on campus and visiting with them. I feel an obligation to nurture the students on the positive aspects of law enforcement.
Q. Do the children ever ask you about the safety of their schools or community?
A. Students do ask questions about safety for themselves and their friends. Typically, students will share experiences that have occurred while they were in school and moreover when they are traveling to and from school. Law enforcement can learn a lot about their communities by listening and sharing with children. We also provide time afterward for students to speak with us if they are uncomfortable communicating their concerns in front of a group.
Q. What future goals are you working on?
A. We have a number of future goals and aspirations. One that comes immediately to mind is the overall safety of the courthouses, which includes all the citizens and personnel who visit them on a daily basis. Our mission is to improve security both internally and externally. We are constantly reassessing our security needs and implementing improvements and changes related to our risk assessments.
Q. How important is volunteering in the community to you and your team?
A. Currently, I am a volunteer with a number of organizations. For example, I remain active and serve as vice chair of the Police Athletic League. I’m also a board member with Casa Guadalupe. We encourage volunteerism throughout our office and a number of our staff are active in many different groups. Several of our personnel are coaches and mentors in our local communities right here in Lehigh County.
Our society is so focused on tangible rewards, like fame and fortune, that the rewards in helping others becomes paled. Those of us that have given of ourselves know that there is no greater reward. We, who have experienced this, have an obligation to expose our youth to the elation felt in helping others.
Q. Do you plan to run for re-election?
A. God willing, I plan to run for re-election and have begun preparations to do so.
Q. Is there anything else you would like residents to know?
A. I would like the residents to know that we are here and available to everyone. I make myself and our staff accessible to the public on a regular basis. We need to maintain our openness and be approachable when the citizens we serve need us.