Sheriff-elect discusses drugs, manpower & bail reform

Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 4:10 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - For the first time in a decade, there will be a new sheriff in town in Jefferson County.

Pete Barnett retired from the sheriff’s office in 2013. Now, nearly ten years later, Barnett has been elected to lead the department. The sheriff-elect sat down with 7 News to outline his objectives for the county.

“Once that opportunity arose and the current Sheriff (Colleen) O’Neill decided to no longer run, I knew that it was my time. I’m glad it’s done. It was a long process, but now I can really get to work,” he said.

Getting to work for Barnett starts with what he believes to be the biggest issue facing Jefferson County right now.

“We have a serious drug problem. I think the drug task force needs some help. They need some more manpower, they need some equipment. The war on drugs is never going to be won, but here in Jefferson County we’re going to win the battles that we fight,” he said.

Barnett believes winning those battles begins at an early age and that’s why he wants to bring back the D.A.R.E. program.

“We need to make sure that we connect with all of our schools. I think one of the most important things as law enforcement and as leaders in our community, is that we have to stay connected with our youth. That starts at an early age. That’s why I’m a big believer in the D.A.R.E. program,” he said.

Other than drugs Barnett knows a challenge he’ll face is dealing with bail reform laws.

“There’s got to be consequences for a person’s actions. The reason that we have facilities, jails, you do something, you end up in there, you learn a lesson. You don’t want to come back. Jail is not a fun place to be. We have to continue to think about the consequences. I just think bail reform has turned some of these pathetic career criminals into a way that they can circumvent the system,” he said.

Barnett says addressing these concerns starts, however, with addressing the citizens who elected him to protect and serve.

“There’s a lot more now-a-days to law enforcement. I think our people need to be a lot more approachable and more visible in the public,” he said.

Barnett will officially take office in January.