During the reign of Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins we have seen political relatives hired to major, high-paying jobs, sober houses located in crack neighborhoods in Lawrence, complaints of employees (or vendors) having relationships with inmates, sweetheart deals given to high price donors (like Wayne Capolupo), and a group of corrections officers who are overworked, undertrained, and woefully underpaid.
Under Cousins we have seen inmates escape from custody with no notice given to the public as required by law. We have seen prisoners recaptured, only to escape a second and third time, with no time added to their sentences. We have seen corrections officers pressured to purchase fund-raising tickets to Cousins’ political events, and we have seen a number of corrections officers needlessly injured for lack of adequate inmate classification, lack of sufficient staffing and outdated equipment.
Bold action must be taken by the new sheriff to set the tone on day one, and the best way to do that is to take the advice of the rank and file corrections officers like Jeff Gallo who brought many of the department’s deficiencies to light during his campaign.
Sheriff Coppinger said at a Valley Patriot’s candidate debate that one of his first priorities was to audit the books at the Sheriff’s Department. Coppinger must not only keep that promise, but should go one (or two) steps further and order a program and management audit as well.
Coppinger must do a top-down assessment of the people who work in the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, how necessary their jobs are, and how necessary the programs are that they administer.
There needs to be a zero tolerance policy for inmates who escape. There also needs to be a zero tolerance policy for employees of the Sheriff’s Department having a physical relationship with inmates, and that should include vendors and other individuals who do business with the county’s prison system.
We also urge the new sheriff to clean house of all the political appointments made under Frank Cousins.
Yes, there is a lot to fix in the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and we believe the newly sworn in Sheriff, Kevin Coppinger is up to the task. But, being up for the task and actually performing the task are two very different things. We only hope Sheriff Coppinger doesn’t squander this opportunity and takes the bold stands needed to make our communities safe again.
If he doesn’t, you will be reading about it here.