June 16, 2019

County sheriff plans to run again > John Crowley self-imposes term limit

MACHIAS — John B. Crowley of Addison made it official Wednesday: He is running for a second term as Washington County sheriff.

Crowley emphasized, however, that if re-elected he would not serve more than the two terms — a total of eight years — as sheriff.

“There’s a belief by some people that if you occupy an office long enough, you begin to feel like you own it,” Crowley said. “I don’t want that to happen.”

Crowley was elected sheriff in 1990, defeating Harold Prescott of East Machias. By the time of Crowley’s election, working relations between the former sheriff and county commissioners had become strained at best.

Now, nearly four years later, working relations between the sheriff’s office and county commissioners “is nothing short of spectacular,” Crowley said. “We’re no longer a laughing stock in Augusta.”

Crowley points to his establishment of a full-time drug education officer position, even at the sacrifice of a full-time patrol position, as one of his major accomplishments since taking office.

“If we’re going to win the war on drugs,” said Crowley, “it will be through education, not enforcement. I believe that drug education is starting to have an impact, but we should know better in two or three years as some of these kids get into high school.”

Still, Crowley noted that there have been “several substantial drug arrests for cocaine and marijuana” since he took office. Burglaries, meanwhile, have dropped significantly in the past year.

“We’ve been very fortunate in our investigation of burglaries and in getting tougher sentences to get these guys off the streets,” Crowley said.

Other accomplishments, said Crowley, include the successful takeover by the county for contracted law enforcement and dispatching duties in Lubec. Vehicles and other equipment have been updated, Crowley said, along with establishing procedures to more accurately track the department’s budget.

“When you inherit a $167,000 departmental deficit, it takes a while to recover,” Crowley said. “But overall, we’ve come very close to living within the three budgets I’ve prepared.”

Inmate occupancy rates at the county jail have declined for two reasons, Crowley said: The institution of a strict no-smoking policy in the jail and implementation of a “two-for-one” work-for-early-release program for some minimum security inmates in the jail.

“I’ve had some inmates tell me that there’s no way they’re coming back if they can’t smoke,” Crowley said. “Since we banned smoking, our inmate rate has dropped substantially.”

Minimum security inmates, pre-approved by a judge for the work-for-early-release program, can reduce their sentence by one day for every two days they work in community-servicetype projects, Crowley said. Crowley initiated the program last year at the same time he embarked on a jail garden project.

Inmates worked in the garden, reducing their sentence while growing food for the jail, Crowley said. The project is expected to be expanded this year.

Crowley also noted that for the first time in his department, standard operating procedures have been written and implemented addressing areas from high speed chases to use of deadly force.

Looking ahead, Crowley acknowledged that the proposed Calais casino would affect his and other area law enforcement agencies.

“The casino will have an impact,” Crowley said. “We don’t know fully what kind of impact, because we don’t have anything to compare it to, but certainly there will be an increase in motor vehicle traffic and in the need for necessary services, such as medical, fire and law enforcement.”

Crowley advocates that a portion of the casino’s earnings “go to county government in support of these services.”

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