BERLIN – Four Republicans are looking to become the next sheriff of Worcester County, replacing long-time Sheriff Reggie Mason upon his retirement this fall.
Scott Bernal of Ocean City is a retired detective with the Ocean City Police Department. He spent 27 years with the OCPD working in narcotics, the patrol division and the criminal investigation unit.
Matt Crisafulli of Pocomoke has been in law enforcement for 20 years and is currently the drug abuse resistance educator and road patrol supervisor with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
Mike McDermott, a former elected member of the House of Delegates and mayor of Pocomoke, serves as a commander for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. He has been in law enforcement for 35 years.
George Truitt of Snow Hill is a retired police officer, having served 23 years in the Fruitland Police Department and Ocean Pines previously.
The Dispatch posed three questions to the candidates for sheriff and requested they be answered in writing. The following represents the question-and-answer session
Why should Worcester County residents vote for you for Sheriff? Please give at least three specific reasons.
Bernal: I am running for sheriff because I genuinely care about the safety and welfare of our community especially our children. Look, regardless of what one might say we all have what it takes to be sheriff. How I’m different from the other candidates is my tactical knowledge and training, which is essential if we’re going to protect our children correctly.
Being qualified to be sheriff isn’t what’s going to make a good Sheriff. What is going to make me a good sheriff is this, I am a bad–s Marine with a great heart, great intentions and the unstoppable will and desire to protect our community. I am not a politician. I’m not using this prestigious position as a stepping stone to launch a political career. I want to be your sheriff because I genuinely care about you and I want to make a positive difference within our community.
Crisafulli: I want to be your next sheriff to make Worcester County the best and safest place to live, work, visit and do business in.
My passion and commitment to community service has helped build my exceptional career in law enforcement, which is the foundation of my desire to become the next sheriff of Worcester County. I want to revive our community policing programs and help build our community and law enforcement relationships. It is my goal to be the most visible and hardworking sheriff that Worcester County has ever seen.
As the sole Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) instructor for Worcester County, I know first-hand how important it is to implement a strong plan of education, prevention and enforcement to fight drugs. Our children, families and community need a leader who will combat the drug epidemic in our county head on, and that leader is me.
Enhancing the Sheriff’s Office’s relationship with our Worcester County schools is of utmost importance. The safety and protection of our children is, has and always will be a priority of mine. I know the Worcester County schools, staff and students better than any law enforcement officer in Worcester County.
McDermott: Keeping Worcester County Safe: For over 30 years, I’ve helped and protected the families and visitors of Worcester County at critical moments. I have led the men and women in law enforcement with integrity and grit. The public safety challenges we face in the years ahead must be addressed with wisdom and professional competence. My education, command leadership (every division), elected public service and my life experiences have prepared me to be your Sheriff and to meet the demands of this Office head on.
Efficiency, Integrity and Transparency: I will institute a top-to-bottom financial and structural audit of the Sheriff’s Office and submit the findings to the County Commissioners and the public. I will insure that our available resources are properly assigned where they are needed the most, and that we are using advanced technology in our crime fighting efforts. Efficiency, integrity and transparency are words we will live by.
School Safety, Opioids: Partnering with the commissioners, I will work to eliminate gaps in school coverage while strengthening security for staff and students. I will work with Gov. Hogan and the Worcester Warriors in making our office a primary entry point for the Angel Project in combating opioid/drug addictions.
Truitt: I started my law enforcement career when I was 19 as a U.S. Army military police officer. I have been in law enforcement since that time. I have worked as a patrol officer, investigations and administration. I have handled several homicides, sex crimes, drug and other part 1 crimes. None of my cases were reversed by the appellant courts.
I have worked with the drug addiction program for the past eight years. I know how severe the drug problem is in Worcester County and have insight as to best attack it. I have written policies, budgets, grants, and have leadership experience. I know that communication is an essential aspect of being a great leader. Not only must you inform people as to what you expect, you must be able to listen to what you are being told. I have the knowledge and expertise that is required to achieve accountability in spending and work performance
In recent years, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has sought additional personnel at budget time to grow the department based on need. Do you think we need more deputies? Why or why not?
Bernal: Yes. It would be valuable to have our own booking staff. It would allow our deputies to be on the road serving our community. If you have two to three deputies on the shift and two of them have to come in to do the whole booking process, it takes time away from being out on the road in the communities.
Crisafulli: Worcester County has steadily grown over the years, which has resulted in the need for additional sworn and non-sworn positions. While the need for additional personnel is always a possibility, I believe that first and foremost we must ensure the current allotted budget and manpower are being properly and wisely allocated. We must ensure that our resources are being utilized to maximum efficiency before we ask for additional deputies or funding. If additional funding is needed, I will work closely with the County Commissioners to communicate why the funding is need.
The Sheriff’s Office budget is currently $7.4 million and immediately upon being sworn in as sheriff I will step back and review each and every dollar spent with a microscope. One of my first actions as your new sheriff will be to conduct a full financial audit of the entire Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. I want to maximize each dollar spent at the Sheriff’s Office, which means I will make any and all departmental changes necessary based upon the needs of the Sheriff’s Office and the budget. I will reallocate our resources where needed to maximize the budget and staffing needs at the Sheriff’s Office.
McDermott: The structural audit that we will conduct will assist us in determining personnel assignments, deployment of assets in the field and any gaps that remain in coverage. Once this has been completed, we will establish short, medium, and long-term goals and expectations for the potential growth of the Sheriff’s Office. This is critical for planning purposes, and I intend to fully engage with the County Commissioners in determining the best way to meet the future public safety needs of Worcester County.
In building a master plan, we’ll work with county planners to estimate population growth in the county that will impact areas outside of corporate limits. There is a great need in the county for crime scene technicians, juvenile detective services, and a child exploitation/predator unit just to name a few. Realignment of current staff can provide a response to current needs, but it is important to have a fiscal partner in the County Commissioners and their staff to provide Worcester County taxpayers with a professional review of our current status, capabilities, limitations, and future growth requirements.
All projected personnel requests will be structurally qualified to meet increased demands for service, and in partnership with the County Commissioners.
Truitt: Once elected, I will evaluate the personnel and their duties. I will reassign those positions that I feel are not justifiable and could be better served in another manner. I know that often the easy way is just to ask for more, but what do you do if the answer is no. I will do my best to find another way to accomplish the mission with the personnel and equipment that is available. As an experienced administrator, I know the strain that is placed on the tax payer every time taxes are raised. Eventually people, especially those on a fixed income, cannot afford to live here and will be forced to move. This necessitates the need for someone with administrative experience that has worked all aspects of law enforcement and has the knowledge of how to reassign staff to where it best serves the public.
If elected, what would be your first orders of business? What specifically would you look to change or address in the first few months of your term?
Bernal: My first order of business will be to let my deputies know I’m working with them and will do what is in the best interest for our sheriff’s agency. I will share with them my expectations. I will work with my deputies to continue to build the bond between our agency and the members of our communities here in Worcester County.
Crisafulli: Upon taking command of the Sheriff’s Office I will implement a three-point plan of action:
- I will immediately begin a complete audit of the Sheriff’s Office. The incoming sheriff must be aware of what resources he has and how they are being utilized. We must examine all accounts, monies, assets and personnel assigned to the Sheriff’s Office. We must examine every dollar spent and ensure that it is worth the cost to the tax payers.
- School security has always been my top priority. I will immediately place full time deputies into each of our county high schools. I will also begin to formulate a plan that will place a full-time deputy in each and every county school. This endeavor may not come quickly or easily, but our schools, staff and children are worth the effort.
- Finally, I will address the current opioid epidemic with a program of education, prevention and enforcement. I will use all the tools at my disposal to teach our children about the dangers of drugs. I will work to help those struggling with addiction while at the same time identifying and incarcerating the poison peddlers that are attacking our loved ones.
McDermott: As the sheriff-elect, I will work with the current administration to attempt a smooth transition for all personnel involved and the ongoing functions of the office. Having worked and transitioned through three previous sheriffs, I know the challenges we must address.
I will be conducting meetings in the months leading up to the changeover date to fully review assignments and status of personnel so as not to waste time once I have been sworn into office. An audit team will be in place and operating from the first days of my administration. A new budget will be due to the County Commissioners in January, so we will make every effort to incorporate our findings into our 2019-20 Fiscal Budget request. This will include structural personnel changes to promote efficiency, accountability, and a better span of command.
We face a personnel crisis for our school resource positions, deputies retiring within the civil division, and the departure of all command level officers within my first term. Therefore, personnel recruitment must become a top priority with some outside the box thinking to meet service goals. Further, we must provide junior officers advanced education and training opportunities to ready them for the challenges ahead.
Truitt: 1. The amount of drugs within our schools is widely known. I will take immediate action by re-assigning a narcotics K-9 to the school system. It will make daily searches of the schools. I will assign deputies to communities where they will have to get out of the car and interact with the residents. The greatest asset we have to fight crime is community involvement. I will not be an office body and will out in the communities.
- School safety is a priority and we cannot just focus on the inside of the buildings. Several times a day kids are outside of the building and are vulnerable. I want to look into the feasibility of portable ballistic walls that would not only offer protection inside of the building but could be rolled outside. These items are a one-time investment and I have experience in locating outside funding sources to offset the cost to the county.
- Effective communication and accountability between elected officials and the residents about how tax dollars are being allocated is essential. Everyone has a right to know how and where their tax dollars are being spent. Salaries, overtime and vehicles account for the majority of the budget. These expenses need to be documented in a manner that the public can understand.