The Rockland County Sheriff’s Office has endured the critical eye of close examination by the Rockland Voice editorial board writers in recent weeks. For the sake of good order and in the best public interest, we turn that same eagle eye to those making the accusations. Fair is fair.
The obvious reason there has been no public comment by the Sheriff’s Office about the accusations tendered by the indicted parties, whom are the source of the complaints leveled against the Office of the Sheriff; are twofold. The first and most accurate is legal counsel precludes any public comment on cases under investigation or being litigated.
The second reason simply stated is it is politically fueled and driven. While the Sheriff’s staff have precious little time to devote, playing petty games in the face of serious responsibilities. Others have collaborated to contrive sensationalist jingos to fool the Rockland voters into believing the man enforcing the rules is a “Tyrant” and those breaking the rules are wide eyed, tears welling, lip quivering, waif’s being victimized for nothing more than harmlessly napping on duty.
Here is the refresher and other side of the story. It makes good reading, since the accusers have regurgitated all they have on this story three times over. What was not discussed about Mr. Cucozza’s case for instance, was the possibility that the entire issue of the complaint may be rooted in money. Is it likely they all are about the money?
He reportedly collects a county salary of $85k, but drew down in one year $202k on top of it in overtime pay. To earn that kind of money, he volunteered to work overtime pulling suicide watch duty at the jail.
Copy of the Charges filed against John Cucozza: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2686270-John-Cucozza-Criminal-Charges.html
The Office of the Sheriff are responsible for multiple divisions that include, patrols, civil enforcement, police, arson, investigations, communications, bomb, and even river patrol, not only the responsibility for the care and custody of those being held in the jail.
Further to that, 67% of those held in jail have been identified with a mental illness, drug addiction, or self medicated for their opiate dependency. Of these, the psychiatric staff advise the Sheriff who is a potential danger to themselves or others and must be remanded to the “suicide watch” section.
The law mandates that the Corrections Officers, monitor and watch them, 24 hours a day, logging in and out every 15 minutes. These inmates are deemed to be a real danger to themselves or others. There are upwards of 30 such cases in the jail at any given time.
If the Corrections Officers fail to perform these duties to the smallest detail and an inmate dies, injures himself or another, then the law holds the Facility liable for the outcome. Lawsuits stemming from these types of cases are awarded in the tens of millions of dollars. So, the State and the County take these incidences quite seriously. It is not a joking matter.
Why do these officers fall asleep on duty? They are pulling double shifts, they are tired. Why are they jockeying for this lucrative but grueling duty? Well, some who are in positions of authority, like being a Union Boss for instance, gearing up for retirement, aim to pad their paychecks for their last three years, so their pension accumulation is calculated based on the total amounts of those paychecks, and get a richer pension at retirement because of it. There is a lot of money involved here that stand to be gained or lost depending on who assigns these duties and what officers get the most share of overtime.
So, when one Officer was disciplined for sleeping on “suicide watch” duty, in an attempt to avoid punishment, instead of taking the honorable tact, his defense was to say that everyone is doing it, so why was he being singled out for selective punishment?
Comes the defense, because he put his support behind the opposition candidate during the election. Of course that must be the only reason; petty, political retribution. It could not possibly be because of breaking the rules, breaking the law, or making the entire Department face increased liabilities, instead of reducing them, or just lack of professionalism.
As such, an investigation demands to see the video tape recordings, mandated again, not to watch over the Officers, but to protect the at risk inmates. Officers who swore an oath and wear a badge, should not have to be scrutinized so closely to ensure they are keeping their word and are doing their jobs. The public would like to think that there is an unspoken honor system supposedly in place here among trustworthy men, whose testimony can send someone to jail.
Now, as a result of reviewing the tapes, more Officers are seen to be in violation. Some have since resigned after merciless counseling sessions about the harsh realities happening between themselves, attorneys and union delegates.
How quickly the missing pieces to this story shifts it from the “Tyrant in the Tombs” to “Tattle-talers in the Tombs.”
The smoke screen of frivolous lawsuits are an old lawyerly tactic directed to intimidate the County seat into a settlement, especially at those that may be fearful of losing re-election.
The value versus the responsibilities assigned to the Office of the Sheriff is reflective in the professionalism exhibited by the remaining majority of deputies, officers, and staff. This small sampling of unprofessional behavior and less than honorable conduct by a handful of aberrants should in no way indict the entire Office of the Sheriff or defame the Sheriff.
It is laudable that in these hard financial times the department staff are penny pinching. It is undeniable by anyone at the Executive and Legislative branches that the Sheriff’s department saved the Rockland taxpayer $13 million dollars through head banging, frugality and compromises.
There is a lesson to be learned here, if but some take the time to study what and why it may be. We leave that up to you, the informed reader to conclude.
disclaimer: This editorial is in the opinion of the authors.