Democrat Roger Langevin of the St. Albans Police Dept. and Republican Tom Oliver of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office are both seeking to replace outgoing Sheriff Robert Norris.
Over the past several weeks, the Messenger asked the two candidates questions about the functions of the office, read their answers below.
Throughout my law enforcement career I took advantage of training opportunities, creating relationships with other officers and agencies along with increasing my education. Working as a Patrol Commander for the VT State Police, I obtained my master’s degree in criminal justice/leadership.
As a leader in community policing, I was awarded the Governor’s Highway Safety Award, Life Saving Award and State Police Director’s Award.
I want to bring my experience, education and philosophy in community policing to the Sheriff’s Office. Throughout my campaign, I personally met with selectboards in Franklin County and discussed issues facing their community. My vision for the Sheriff’s Office is to be more visible and responsive to issues in all towns in Franklin County.
I am currently Captain and Chief Deputy in the Sheriff’s Office where I have dedicated my entire law enforcement career of 29 years. As a 1990 graduate of the VT Police Academy, I have served in numerous capacities including patrol, training & supervision, prisoner transport, civil process and contracts and administration. I am running for the Office of Sheriff because I firmly believe in its constitutional role in law enforcement. As Sheriff, I can use my first-hand experience and knowledge to work effectively with the fifteen independent Franklin County townships to provide the desired services for their communities and schools in the most cost-effective manner for taxpayers and advocate for the highest standards of officer training and safety.
I have also served the Franklin County community as a First Responder and Deputy Game Warden. I live in Sheldon with my wife Laurie (Magnant) of 25 years and our two children.
The Messenger asked the sheriff candidates how they would approach the ongoing challenge of speeding in some of the county’s smaller communities.
During the campaign I have met with selectboards in small towns and discussed ways to provide coverage. I would first review municipal speed ordinances with each town.This would allow towns to address speeding and recoup some fines from the violations.
I would look to periodically assign state paid deputies to traffic duty when the schedule permits. I would encourage deputies to partner with other agencies on traffic details to increase effectiveness.
When federal funds are available for traffic details such as “click it or ticket”, or DUI enforcement, I would assign deputies to work areas such as Rte 36 in Fairfield, Bakersfield or 118 in Montgomery.
I will look to increase patrols in Franklin County through alternate funding sources. Various federal grants are available for specific details and I will take advantage of these funding resources.
Selectboards should never hear that their issues will not be discussed because they don’t have a contract.
I would ask the concerned towns to identify specific problem areas. We can then deploy our traffic survey cart to gather information about the actual traffic speeds in relation to time of day so that we can target specific enforcement times in order to expend funds wisely.
Additionally, based on averages, the town can determine if the present speed limit is still appropriate. We can refer the townships to the VTRANS Local Roads Program for assistance in adjusting speed limits and we can spend some time on speed enforcement utilizing our traffic safety grants. The townships can consider purchasing small radar speed signs or installing 4-way stop intersections in the busy areas to calm
It is possible to enter into a short term traffic-enforcement specific contract to supplement other areas if needed.
What do you see as the law enforcement challenges created by the legalization of small quantities of marijuana which the legislature approved last session? As sheriff, how would you address those challenges?
Being in law enforcement, I support medical marijuana but oppose legalizing recreational marijuana. Legalization raises both a public health issue and public safety issue. Marijuana should be reclassified from a schedule 1 drug to a schedule 3 drug so it can researched for its benefits and long term effects. I have concerns that some of our youth will experiment with marijuana much sooner because it is now legal to possess. Lastly, without a roadside test for marijuana impairment, law enforcement will need to utilize Drug Recognintion Experts. This training is lengthy and expensive.
The legalization of marijuana deflects the publics focus from the opioid epidemic gripping Franklin County. As Sheriff, I would look to continue the focus on the opioid issue hoping to get users into treatment and dealers behind bars. I also look forward to reading the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Report which is due out by December 31.
Highway safety is a big concern. Legalization will increase recreational use of the drug. At present, there is noapproved roadside test developed for an officer to determine impairment for marijuana. The changes in the law now require use of a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert), a specially trained officer that can determine impairment from drugs other than alcohol. Certification can require up to 130 hours of training per officer which is a significant expense to the Sheriff’s Office and utilizes resources that could be allocated to other services. As sheriff, I would advocate certification training become part of the basic curriculum at the police academy and work with state representatives to inform proposed changes in Montpelier. Legalization of this drug is also sending mixed messages to our youth regarding the use drugs. More drug awareness in schools will be needed to educate youth about the risks of drug use.
Several Franklin County towns have expressed frustration with ATV users causing problems in their communities. What approach would you take to address issues with disruptive ATV riders?
I would first meet with selectboard members to discuss the ongoing ATV issues and determine the steps necessary to correct the issue. In most towns, the ATV offenders are known by the residents of the town. Selectboards could provide helpful insight such as days and times to patrol for specific offenders which would increase the effectiveness of the patrol.
Creation of a multi law enforcement agency approach is beneficial. I would look to include the Department of Motor Vehicles, State Police & the State’s Attorney’s office to collaborate on a plan, working together, to resolve the ATV issue. This is an ongoing issue in many towns.
Next, I would hold a community meeting inviting ATV owners and community members to discuss the ATV issue plaguing the town. I would look to have members of various law enforcement agencies in attendance to help address concerns and present law enforcement’s plan to address the issue. This would serve as a warning to ATV offenders and enhance law enforcement’s ability when future enforcement action is taken. In addition, while most ATV owners are responsible operators, known offenders would be spoken with personally. The results of enforcement action taken would be reported back to the town selectboard.
ATV issues generally involve a small number of violators creating road safety issues and property damage. In rural Vermont, ATV violations will continue to be a challenge. Ongoing communications between the Sheriff’s office and town select boards and residents can be effective to understand and target problem areas in each town and discuss potential solutions. Use of unmarked cars to identify and safely apprehend repeat violators without pursuit has had success but is time consuming and costly. Written statements or video from residents also provide the Sheriff’s Office an opportunity to identify these individuals. There is a growing population of riders interested in having a place to lawfully ride ATVs and recreational vehicles in VT. This group represents a large percentage of the law abiding citizens that are now leaving the state to ride. Similar organized ridership with trail systems and law enforcement has worked well for the snowmobile community.
The Sheriff has been described as part state employee, part county employee and part entrepreneur. Which of the office’s many responsibilities do you see as primary? How would you balance the competing demands for time and resources?
I view each of part of employment; state employee, county employee and entrepreneur as being of equal demand on the Sheriff. With exception of the entrepreneurial duties, the state and county demands are well described in detail from the assistant side judges and by the state of Vermont respectively.
The entrepreneur piece is where the Sheriff can address an individual town’s needs through town contracts and assisting with other law enforcement details as requested. This requires a Sheriff who is available, willing to meet and listen to selectboards and townspeople.
Leadership and supervision is and will continue to be the greatest demand on the Sheriff. Ensuring that county money is spent on county functions, state money is spent on state functions and contracted patrols, paid for by individual towns, are effective and efficient, financed by the contract. This will be accomplished by professional, well-trained deputies.
The Sheriff is an elected County official by the people of the County and is not a state employee. The Sheriff receives a salary and benefits from the State to ensure prisoner transport and civil duties are accomplished. Funding to support these activities is limited and would prevent the Sheriff from providing any other protective services for the County without additional financial support from grants or contracts. Grants are added support but are at risk of continuation over the long-term and are generally limited to payment of specific costs (i.e. salaries & mileage) and do not fully fund operations, including officer equipment and training needs, vehicle purchase and maintenance. Any activities contracted by the Sheriff are at the discretion of the Sheriff to meet the needs of the community, enhance the quality of staff and operations, and cover administrative costs of the Office. All of the responsibilities enhance one another and are equally important.
When a person who may have entered the country illegally is a witness to or victim of a crime, do you believe law enforcement should inquire about that person’s immigration status? Similarly, when a person is not directly involved in a crime, such as the passenger in a car stopped for speeding, should law enforcement inquire about that person’s immigration status?
When someone has entered the country illegally and is either a witness or victim of crime, law enforcement should NOT inquire about their immigration status. The State of Vermont’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy is clear on how law enforcement should treat the immigrant community. “Federal law does not require law enforcement officers to ask about the immigration status of crime victims/witnesses.” Law enforcement’s goal is solving the crime. The policy further states that “law enforcement will ensure that individual immigrants and immigrant communities understand that full victim services are available to documented and undocumented victims/witnesses.”
When a legal or illegal immigrant commits a crime, the crime will be investigated as any other crime. Law enforcement does not ask victims/witnesses about their immigration status unless obtaining information regarding immigration status is relevant to the criminal investigation. Since most motor vehicle stops are civil in nature, questions concerning the violation are directed to the operator.
All Vermont law enforcement agencies or departments, including the Sheriff’s Office, are required to follow the State of Vermont’s “Fair and Impartial Policing Policy.” As Sheriff, I must ensure that all members of the Sheriff’s Office understand and perform their duties according to this policy. The role of all Vermont law enforcement officers is to investigate criminal activity and not enforce civil immigration law. As standard operating procedure, an officer will attempt to identify a person sitting in the passenger seat, however an officer will not inquire about immigration status. Victims and witnesses of crimes are not to be asked of immigration status. Cross border crimes that are witnessed, such as drug and weapon smuggling and illegal crossing will be brought to the appropriate federal immigration authorities. This policy does not prohibit law enforcement agencies from conducting work with federal agencies to better protect our communities from criminal activities.
How would you, as sheriff, use the resources of the sheriff’s department to combat the opiate crisis?
A meeting with local law enforcement leaders is the starting point for putting together an effective county wide opiate program. As Sheriff, I pledged to use the 5 percent from each town contract and put that towards training, equipment and programs for deputies. My vision is to see well-trained deputies working with other agencies to investigate opiate cases countywide. The State Police has been awarded $4 million to combat the opiate issue statewide. Working with the State Police and other law enforcement agencies, I would look to participate in some of the state funding to support an opiate program in Franklin County.
A collaborative effort with other agencies will maximize the use of county and state funds and promote the sharing of intelligence information on drug dealers.
The St Albans Police Street Crimes Unit is a good model to employ throughout Franklin County. Working with other agencies is the key to success.
Opiates have no boundary and reach all towns, ages, incomes and cultures in Franklin County. Prevention is critical to combat the addictive nature and use of opiates, beginning with education of our youth. Education must involve families as well as collaboration among law enforcement resources, including School Resource Officers (SRO), members of the medical and mental health community and lawmakers.
As Sheriff, I would continue to allocate resources to maintain the existing Sheriff staffed SRO positions in Fairfax, Richford & Enosburg, provide quality training for officers and support information sharing with other law enforcement agencies that will facilitate the successful arrests of the suppliers of the drugs. The declaration of the opiate crisis as a national Public Health Emergency has opened potential funding opportunities for law enforcement to partner with other agencies to create outreach programs to educate and assist individuals suffering from addiction that I will explore for our community.
If you are elected sheriff in next month’s election, what will be at the top of your to-do list when you take over the position?
Creating the most professional well trained Franklin County Sheriff’s Office tops my to-do list. Initially, I would meet with the current deputies and discuss the vision statement for the department. “The vision for the Franklin County Sheriff”s Office is where citizens have involvement and partner with law enforcement on improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods.”
Additionally, the mission statement for the Franklin County Sheriff’s office would be discussed. “The mission of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is to positively interact with the communities we serve in an effort to prevent, detect and resolve criminal activity while maintaining respect for the individual.”
Next I would ask the deputies to choose an area of interest in law enforcement. Training would then be scheduled to help the deputies become experts in their field of interest. This would be accomplished by reinvesting 5 percent of each town contract into the training budget.
As Chief Deputy and a long-term employee, my transition to Sheriff would be significantly less than it would for another candidate since I already have a full understanding of the daily operations of the office. The benefit of my experience will allow me to focus first on the employees of the Sheriff’s Office. I will swear in ALL the current employees of the Franklin County Sheriff’s office. Communication among the deputies and staff will be critical with a change in leadership. It will be important to meet with all deputies and staff individually and as a team to collect their thoughts regarding the future of the office as well as to share my expectations. I will also meet with the towns and local law enforcement and agencies we work with in my new role. The continued stability of the office is important for both employees and the communities we serve.
As a law enforcement officer, what is your view of the gun legislation passed earlier this year by the General Assembly? Do you believe the gun restrictions were appropriate or went too far? Are there other ways you would like the state to address the issue of gun violence, particularly in domestic violence cases?
I stand behind the 2nd Amendment. This topic, Bill S. 55, deserves a great deal of discussion.
Restricting gun ownership does little to make us safer. Look at the city of Chicago, which is a gun free zone. In 2016, Chicago had 762 murders, 3,550 shooting incidents with 4,331 shooting victims. What we are seeing in this country is a cultural change. This change is being driven by drugs, mental health issues, violent video games, confrontational politics and the decline of the family structure. Without addressing the root cause, offenders will find another weapon to inflict harm on society.
I support the current gun laws in Vermont that remove guns from defendants who have been served with temporary and final restraining orders and those convicted of domestic assaults. Most assaults include preplanning. Reporting something suspicious to law enforcement is best chance to avoid another tragic incident.
Vermont has had a long standing reputation as a safe place to live. It has also respected the second amendment, and article 16 throughout its history until recently. Restricting adults from purchasing firearms, magazine limits, private sale back ground checks, and bump fire stock bans, will not deter a driven person from committing violent crime. As a police officer it will not change how we do our job as far as public and officer safety is concerned on a scene. However, we would now be encouraged to seize firearms from domestic abuse complaints. Removing the aggressor from the area and leaving the victim with no personal protection. It will also limit anyone 18-20 years old from buying a firearm that may be a victim of domestic violence who wishes to have protection. We need to focus on domestic violence education, mental health issues, and substance abuse to deter the occurrences of domestics.
The Messenger invited candidates to make their final pitch to you, the voters.
I have the training, experience, and working relationships in place with law enforcement leaders to be your next Sheriff.
Training is vital to personally and professionally improve as a police officer. I took every opportunity offered for training and would offer the same for deputies in the dept to stay current with today’s challenges. Speeding is the main reason for motor vehicle crashes. In 2001, I was awarded the Governor’s Highway Safety Award for designing and implementing traffic details that significantly reduced speeding in Chittenden County. As Supervisor of the Intelligence Division of the State Police, I worked on countless drugs investigations ultimately leading to the successful prosecution of drug dealers.
As your next Sheriff, I want to use my 25 years experience in law enforcement and my masters degree in Criminal Justice/Leadership to grow the Franklin County Sheriffs Dept and work collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies to improve community policing, promote early drug education and ensure public safety.
I am proud to serve with Sheriff Norris and the staff of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO). The FCSO is the most successful it has ever been due to the teamwork and professionalism of the office and the multiple agencies with which we work. In an environment where it is difficult to recruit law enforcement, the FCSO is experiencing growth with new and veteran law enforcement officers seeking to be a part of our organization. Through my experience, I know the position of Sheriff requires availability and response beyond the normal business hours of a Monday-Friday schedule. I recognize that the Sheriff is responsible and accountable to the communities, employees and operations at all times. With the support of my family, I am ready to make that commitment to my team and the County. I would be honored to be elected as Sheriff to continue the growth which I have helped to achieve.