Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Trooper Feels He's
Ready for Sheriff
By Nathan Mayberg
JEFFERSONVILLE October 14, 2005 Lifetime Liberty resident and retired New York State Trooper Michael Schiff will vie to be the next Sullivan County Sheriff with an arsenal of ideas on how to operate an effective Sheriffs Department of 38 deputies, which busily serves the countys more than 70,000 residents.
His campaign is centered on promoting community interaction with the department.
During a recent interview, the Republican-nominated candidate outlined a long list of ideas in a platform that he will bring to the polls on November 8 against the Democratic candidate, Frank Armstrong.
Although Schiff, a 27-year veteran of the New York State Police, is running as a Republican, he said he has received some support from Democrats throughout the county, including officers at the Monticello Police Department, Armstrongs former place of employment.
Schiffs mission statement and core values to protect the lives and property of the citizens of this county, to preserve the peace and to prevent crime and disorder while constantly guarding personal liberties, feature a six-point plan to accomplish those goals.
The statement calls for the following:
A well-trained and disciplined patrol force capable of assessing and responding to the changing needs of the community and responding to emergencies
A proactive traffic enforcement program
A skilled and experienced investigative team
A community relations effort to educate the public
An emphasis on eliminating quality-of-life crimes, including the sale of drugs
Facilities for secure, humane, corrective and productive detention
Schiff said community support is vital to the success of the Sheriffs Department.
It will be imperative that a dialogue characterized by mutual trust with open and honest communication be maintained by the Sullivan County Sheriffs Office and our community, he wrote in his mission statement.
His stated core values are community focus, always improving, worthy of trust and respect for each other.
On community service, Schiff wrote that it is the community who must define quality service. We will form partnerships with our citizens and listen to them. We will remember that every contact between a member of the community and any part of the Sheriffs Office is where community opinion is formed.
Our business will be service. The only way we can improve our business is to improve our service. We will constantly be in a learning mode. We will be willing to examine what we do and make changes to improve.
The Sullivan County Sheriffs Office will achieve a reputation as a premier enforcement agency by earning the trust of the community. We will safeguard that trust. We will keep our promises. Whether on or off duty, we will behave according to the highest set of ethical standards. We will protect the rights of all citizens.
Employees deserve a decent working environment, one in which relationships are characterized by mutual respect. We will listen actively, talk straight and act fairly. We will encourage each other and every employee to contribute and grow to his/her full potential. We will work together as a TEAM and appreciate the contributions of all.
Among the programs Schiff would like to install are:
Bringing the training model of the New York State Police to the Sheriffs Office, including sensitivity training.
Re-establish a countywide D.A.R.E program.
Develop a community outreach program with deputies from the jail for at-risk youth.
Implement a traffic safety plan to reduce the fatalities on the roads.
A 24-hour senior citizen hotline and other measures to protect seniors and the disabled.
Establish a Sheriffs K-9 unit to track down criminals, lost children, and drugs.
Seek state accreditation in the next four years by updating polices and procedures, as the State Police have.
Implement policies to foster cooperation between other emergency services in the county, including issues such as homeland security and disaster preparedness.
Work with state agencies to better track and monitor sex offenders.
Schiff spent 22 years working as a trooper in the county and the last five as a trooper handling security at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
His job as a trooper has taken him to many places throughout the state, including Lake Placid during the 1980 Olympics to work security and in upstate New York during protests and unrest by Native Americans.
His job at the Jacob Javits Center required him to handle large crowds and coordinate the logistics of a plethora of events. He was brought there in an effort to fight organized crime.
Most recently, Schiff worked security at the Republican National Convention in New York City.
And all of that experience has taught Schiff many lessons about law enforcement, he said, yet he keeps his philosophy simple.
All policing is community policing. You need to interact with the community.
As Sheriff, he said he would promote continual meetings with community groups and leaders in order to learn the needs of each area. For example, he is looking forward to working with the neighborhood watch program in the Village of Wurtsboro, which was formed over the last year in response to continued violence and vandalism.
Along those same lines, the candidate believes the community can continue to improve themselves by staying involved and in touch with local enforcement. He used Livingston Manor as an example of a hamlet which was once overrun by crime but is now beautiful after having been reclaimed through the tireless efforts of residents who wanted to take back their streets.
Schiff also pays attention to the increasing and diverse population within the county.
Everybody deserves a seat at the table, he said.
He said that the Sheriffs Department should be community service oriented, where everyone in the community is respected and represented.
Other ideas include a proposed outreach education program to local summer camps for counselors who are unfamiliar with driving in an area with rolling hills and deer.
Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager
Open Door Policy Is
By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 14, 2005 Frank Armstrong doesnt shy away from the obvious question.
Why should you vote for me? he asked with a smile. Its hubris, but Im the best man for the job.
The Democratic candidate to replace Dan Hogue as Sullivan County Sheriff come January 1 has had his eye on the job for more than a decade.
But after retiring from the Monticello Police Department three years ago, the Roscoe resident (Buck Brook, to be precise) thought hed have a little time before going headlong into a race for the head of the countys police force.
He thought it would be awhile before two-term sheriff and former undersheriff Dan Hogue said goodbye.
He thought hed have time to finish his bachelors degree at Marist College, maybe even get his masters degree out of the way.
Then Dan threw a monkey wrench in there, Armstrong said with a laugh.
Hogue announced in March that he wouldnt be seeking re-election. That weekend, Armstrong said he agonized over what to do next.
By Monday, he and wife Patty agreed it was time.
Armstrong resigned his post as town justice in the Town of Fremont and began his campaign.
Last month he captured the Democratic bid after a primary battle against Paul Trust.
Now the lifelong county resident is taking his unswerving belief in community policing into the communities of Sullivan County.
His goal, he said, is to open the door of the sheriffs department to the people.
Raised in Briscoe, Armstrong attended Jeffersonville-Youngsville Central School.
He left the area for just four years, joining the Army in the midst of the Vietnam War.
His final year in the service landed him in the South Pacific in the heart of battle. On the front lines, he earned a Silver Star, an Air Medal and other commendations before his honorable discharge.
Armstrong returned home in 1969, first taking a job as a carpenter and later a furniture maker in Hortonville.
He met and married the former Patty Golden of Monticello, and the couple began planning a family (they now have two children, Katie, a student at Smith College, and Peter, an environmental lobbyist in the State of Washington).
Armstrongs decision to look for something more stable, coupled with the encouragement of his mothers brother William, chief of police in Bayonne, NJ, sent him to join his brothers in blue.
His first job on the force was in Woodridge, where he spent a year as a patrolman before taking a position at the Monticello Police Department nearby.
In his 27 years in Monticello, Armstrong worked his way from patrolman to detective, eventually retiring as a sergeant.
While on the force, he started Operation Night Light, a grant-funded project that brought probation officers and the police together for after-hours visits to the homes of probationers.
It was a project that spread across the county for a time, an example Armstrong said speaks to his dedication to the concept of being proactive rather than reactive.
Probationers were made aware that they were subject to the same rules on Saturdays and Sundays as they were Monday through Friday, and the police got to know the residents in their area on probation.
It made them think, Well gosh, if Im goofing off, these people are going to know me, Armstrong explained.
Thats one of the aims of community policing to know whats out there, to know where potential problems are, to know how to prevent them.
As a young patrolman in Monticello, Armstrong said he could almost predict which homes hed be called to on a Friday night.
But he saw the way to change that wasnt just continuing to arrest the same people. Instead, he called in local agencies that could answer the problems.
Armstrong wants to develop community resource officers for the different sectors of Sullivan County, people on the current department who will have the key to the pulse of each community.
One of the basic components of what he calls community policework is that every community knows what they want from their police force, Armstrong explained.
Sullivan County is such a big place, he said, that the sheriffs department cannot speak the same language in each community.
If we work hard enough on a concerted plan for the whole county that takes advantage of the individual flavors of each community, we can keep the public safe, he said.
Armstrong hopes to form community advisory committees, people who can speak to the needs of their individual towns and villages to help better the sheriffs department.
Hell welcome new ideas, he said, because he believes in open doors, open ears and open minds.
With dialogue, he said, people can make an investment in their sheriffs department instead of just asking what theyre getting for their tax dollars.
We can have a sheriffs department be what they want it to be, not just what someones vision of it is, Armstrong explained.
He said getting to know the communities is also key to warding off future problems.
A good example is a phone bank set up in some areas for senior citizens. Shut-in residents are put on a call chain that eventually works its way back to the community resource officer something that can ensure the elderly who are taken advantage of by a criminal or in need of assistance because of a fall will be rescued after just a few hours rather than three or four days.
The plan could even save the departments resources by sending patrol cars to spots where theyre needed most on a consistent basis rather than directing deputies to drive aimlessly.
Instead of sending a guy to ride around, waiting for something to happen, you could direct him, say, This is what we need, Armstrong explained
Prevention and intervention rather than apprehension, he continued. We have to get them into the idea that protect and serve does not mean building a big police force, it means working with a community.
Armstrong said hes open to new ideas, open to change.
As a former trustee in the Village of Jeffersonville and former mayor, he helped get rid of a court system that was a drag on the taxpayers. He helped bring in grant funding that took the burden of complying with the health departments water regulations off of the taxpayers.
Hes studied everything from nursing to liberal arts, taken courses in grant writing and journalism.
He measures his strength above his opponent, former State Trooper Mike Schiff, in his diversity.
He knows only one thing, Armstrong said of Schiff. He knows how to be a trooper, where Ive been eclectic in everything.
The economic growth coming down the pike in Sullivan County can be a major boon, he said.
But one of the things that grows with economic development is crime, he warned. You have to have an enlightened law enforcement to handle that.
Citing the examples set by the sheriff in Genesee County, where the jail population has decreased while satisfaction with public safety has increased, Armstrong said hes eager to learn from what has worked and what hasnt.
The county has a good, hard-working staff in the sheriffs department, he said, and he hopes to take advantage of whats already in place to build something better.
I think weve had, luckily, good sheriffs all along, Armstrong said. Certainly theyve given me a real firm foundation for future innovation.
Hogue and his predecessors have paved the way for someone who will come in and change the department, Armstrong said.
And after almost three decades in police work, Armstrong is eager to start the next chapter.
Im too young to just sit still, he said with a laugh.
He wants to be involved in an exciting time in Sullivan County.
I think Sullivan County really deserves to be the kind of place you can coax your children back to, he said. Let me some day see my grandchildren by coaxing my children back here.
For more information on Armstrongs campaign, visit his Website, www.armstrongsheriff.com.