GLENS FALLS — Major Jim LaFarr said he is running for Warren County sheriff to restore the type of community policing that existed when he first joined the force two decades ago.
LaFarr started as a part-time officer stationed in Lake George, where the department used to have a substation in the firehouse. Officers were involved with local ball games and barbecues.
The police should get out of their cars more, for example, if they’re driving by while someone is walking out to the road to get their mail, he said.
“We should stop and say hello and build a rapport and a comfort level,” he said Wednesday in a meeting with The Post-Star editorial board.
It is really difficult to build relationships when an officer may work in Queensbury one day, Warrensburg another day and Lake Luzerne on the third day, he said.
He also plans to get into the field on a regular basis as sheriff.
“I’m going to get up and away from that desk. I’m going to spend time in a police car, so I have an understanding of what our members are doing day to day,” he said.
Since 2008, LaFarr has headed up the Office of Professional Standards, which fields complaints about officers. He said he believes he has handled the job well by being a good listener and being fair.
“Our members trust me. It’s not personal. I’m not out to get them,” he said.
His focus is on correcting the behavior to make sure it does not happen again, according to LaFarr.
Most complaints come from the Warren County jail, where people who have been charged with a crime often think that if they complicate the process by making a complaint, they can get their charges reduced, he said.
The jail has a high staff turnover rate, which he would like to address.
“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars only to have them leave within three months, six months, a year,” he said, of jail employees.
He would work to change the culture at the jail and make sure the staff are well trained, have what they need and are treated with respect, he said.
“You can’t give them a raise. You can’t give them extra days off. You can tell them, ‘you did a great job,’” he said.
LaFarr said he believes there are parts of the budget that could be cut so money could be used in other areas.
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He declined to say more at this time, however, because he did not want to say anything critical of the current administration.
LaFarr said he would like the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to rejoin the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Academy. The Sheriff’s Office was a founding member but got out years ago because of budget cuts.
Although there is $1,000 in annual dues, he believes the free training that the office can receive at the academy is valuable.
LaFarr said he would also like to work with other agencies to help share services, particularly with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Glens Falls Police Department.
“I know I can improve relationships with those agencies,” he said.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Office must continue working to combat illegal drug use, which he said is affecting people of all socioeconomic backgrounds in the community.
LaFarr supports the school resource office program and says it should be tailored to meet the needs of each school district.
“What works in one might not work in another, so everyone will be unique and different,” he said.
He was offered the undersheriff position when Robert Swan retired, he said, but declined because he believes it was not the right move at that time for his family. The position is not a union job and does not have job security.
For his undersheriff, LaFarr has selected Terry Comeau, who is a Warren County coroner and has 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as an investigator.
“Terry is one of the most selfless, kindest human beings you’d ever want to meet,” he said.
LaFarr graduated from SUNY Adirondack and served in both the U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Air Force reserves. He is married and has an adult son.
LaFarr said nothing is wrong with the way things are working now in the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, but believes he can bring a fresh set of eyes to the job.
“There’s nothing wrong with looking forward and seeking change,” he said.
LaFarr is running against Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree. Regardless of what happens in the June 25 Republican primary, both men will be on the ballot in November, as LaFarr has the Conservative Party line and Lamouree has the Independence line.