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Somerset County Sheriff

Duties: Responsibilities include maintaining a safe and secure environment at the Somerset County Courthouse and the county complex, providing support to all county law enforcement efforts, the operation of the Somerset County Jail and the care and custody of persons incarcerated and committed by the courts. The Sheriff is elected to a three-year term.

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    William (Bill) Parenti

  • Candidate picture

    Darrin Russo

Biographical Information

What are the primary functions of the Somerset County sheriff? How will you uphold those functions as the elected leader?

In your view, what are the biggest issues facing the sheriff's department at this time?

How do you define public safety and what policies and practices are you planning on implementing to help ensure it?

What would you like to see the Sheriff's Department do to offer support for, or integration with, local police departments?

Campaign Address 66 East Main St, Somerville
Campaign Email
The Sheriff oversees the largest law enforcement agency in Somerset County. The primary functions of the office are to run the county jail, provide security to the courts, as well as working with municipalities to keep our county safe. I am uniquely qualified to uphold those functions thanks to my experience: I run the police department in the 6th largest municipality, and in that role, I have done the hard work of implementing and managing police department budgets. My time as a municipal police chief, and as President of the Somerset County Association of Police Chiefs, gives me the relationships to work with chiefs across the county to implement shared services, where appropriate. In my role as president I have mentored many new chiefs. They soon realize the large jump they took and the learning curve needed. I am ready to be your sheriff beginning day one.
The single biggest issue facing law enforcement today is responding to the opioid epidemic. We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid crisis. We need to expand the program started by Sheriff Provenzano – by including visits from counselors, to ensuring those in recovery have access to the medication they need. By doing all we can to make sure those in recovery can return to being productive members of society, we can look out for our most vulnerable as well as save taxpayers money by ending the vicious cycle of opioid users being arrested, released, and re-arrested. The next biggest issue for the Sheriff is working with municipalities to coordinate shared services: my time working with chiefs across the county gives me the relationships – and the trust – to work productively to save taxpayers money. While other candidates in the race will have a learning curve, I’ll be ready to be your Sheriff one Day One. Another big concern for the new Sheriff will be dealing with the unions. Effective leadership requires keeping morale up, grievances low and preventing lawsuits. A leader who can't do this - or worse, who fights with the unions, will cost the taxpayers a great deal of money. To keep morale up and grievances low, we need to look at a more effective schedule to lessen the stress on the officers while reducing overtime. Our police officers are the department's most valuable asset. We need to have our policies and procedures current, and a leader that knows the best practices and has put effective policies in place.
Public safety is about establishing and fostering trust and support between law enforcement and members of the community. As Chief of Police in North Plainfield, and as President of the Somerset County Association of Police Chiefs, I meet with clergy and community leaders to build those relationships and that trust. I’m the only candidate in the race with the track record of fostering inclusive policies to promote public safety: I’m proud to have been recognized in this respect by New Jersey’s Attorney General, by the National Latino Peace Officer Association, and by the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield. My resume gives me the ability to be an effective Sheriff from Day One. One of the main challenges law enforcement is facing is dealing with active shooters in our schools, malls and now sadly our places of worship. I am very proud to serve on the New Jersey Attorney General’s Active Shooter committee. We are very close to issuing a directive. The directive will have a standardized response for all officers in the state. The plan will eliminate time needed to formulate a plan and there will be no second guessing on the proper course of action. We know it is the local police that are the key. They need quick action and cannot wait for an outside agency. We will make sure local police will have the training to combat these situations, effectively and expeditiously. Another challenge is dealign with domestic violence. I currently sit on the New Jersey Supreme Court Domestic Violence Steering Committee. I authored a position paper that convinced the New Jersey Supreme Court to reverse its own opinion and restore a police officer's ability to view past restraining orders. This information can then be shared with a judge to show a pattern of violence and help secure a protective order for the victim or prevent a person with a violent past from obtaining a gun permit.
In order to most effectively support, and integrate with, municipal police departments, the Sheriff will need to be someone who can build trust and camaraderie with the municipal police chiefs. My 14 years as a municipal police chief allows me to both understand what municipal chiefs are working through, and my 13 years as the President of the Somerset County Association of Police Chiefs gives me the relationships to be able to start this important work on Day One. We need to reassign our officers in order to bring back the prisoner transport unit. Local police departments are spending money transporting prisoners which usually requires additional officers on overtime. They also leave their communities short staffed during the time it takes to transport the prisoner. This sheriff’s office is best equipped this function thus, saving the local communities tax dollars.
Campaign Address P.O. Box 6651 Somerset NJ 08875
The Somerset County sheriff has the unique and important role of preserving law and order in the county. Overseeing law enforcement and coordinating public safety efforts across townships, the sheriff is responsible for unifying our various police departments and similarly functioning units in order to ensure Somerset County laws are being followed and that such laws are just.

As working with local authorities and being a point person for coordination efforts across Somerset County is a key function of the sheriff, I believe my past experience qualifies me for this position and has provided me with the insight needed in order to carry out the duties of the role effectively. I’ve worked in a variety of positions, from serving as Lieutenant in the Franklin Township Police Department to working with the County prosecutor’s office to holding a position on the NJ State PBA Executive Board. In this way, from my experiences, I am capable of uniting various departments and creating ways for them to work in tandem as is the keystone responsibility of the sheriff.
Overhauling our prisoner reentry program is an issue of top priority for me. I have seen firsthand the damage done to individuals, families and communities when people re-entering society from jail are unable to resume productive lives and instead resort to crime to support themselves. Trapped in this cycle of recidivism, formerly incarcerated people lack the ability to leave their past lives behind and start fresh, imposing a burden on our criminal justice system and the overall productivity of society. When offered the proper resources, the majority of people reentering society from jail leave crime behind and can become productive citizens and taxpayers who contribute to our communities. When prisoners reenter society properly, it helps to build local economies and safe communities for everyone, decreasing overall crime rates and expanding our county’s workforce. Being that the sheriff’s office is responsible for local law enforcement and fostering safe, crime-free spaces, I will work with non-profit, county and state resources to ease reentry for residents who have served their sentences and have returned to their home communities.
While largely subjective, public safety to me is simply whatever practices or regulations help make individual communities feel safe. This differs from town to town or county to county depending on local environments and community concerns. Yet, my former involvement with local police forces, the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, and departments such as the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and State Police has given me insight into the problems that concern Somerset County specifically and what our residents need in order to feel safe.

I plan to implement programs to help improve our community that include protecting our schools and places of worship, forming a task force aimed at combating hate crimes, and overhauling our prisoner reentry programs to ensure that folks who leave jail don’t end up back inside. I want to work with local businesses to serve the public and promote the well-being of Somerset’s entrepreneurs. In sum, I want to address the issues that Somerset County feels need to be remedied in order to feel secure and far from harm.
As a former Lieutenant for the Franklin Township Police Department, I have experienced the ways in which the smallest branches of public safety and law enforcement interact with county-level officials. As Lieutenant, I assisted the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office in several large-scale drug sweeps for distribution and possession, also serving as Liaison to the Somerset County Narcotics Task Force and was a Somerset County Superior Court recognized court expert in narcotics. In these ways, I was able to bring my intimate knowledge of the community I directly served to the forefront of operations conducted on a much larger scale. Similarly, as Sheriff, I will offer more ways through which local police departments can coordinate their efforts and pool their findings together in order to conduct work more efficiently. Liaison roles which provide local law enforcement with opportunities to assist in county-level projects and make use of individual specializations are certainly a way of doing so, in addition to allowing individuals in the Sheriff’s department to work one-on-one in their respective communities. Overall, I see great potential to bring the department out from the office and into the lives of our community members.