GLENS FALLS — Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said he was inspired to go into law enforcement by his father, who was a Bethlehem police officer.
“I saw how law enforcement was a family and law enforcement as a whole takes care of the community,” he said Thursday in a meeting with The Post-Star editorial board.
Lamouree started with the department in 1988 after graduating from SUNY Brockport and was assigned to the village of Lake George part-time. He rose through the ranks, and in 2012, he was selected by York to be the undersheriff.
In his current position, Lamouree is responsible for the budget and serves as a liaison to the Warren County Board of Supervisors in making requests for equipment and amending budgets.
Lamouree said he believes the roughly $24 million budget is at a good level. The overbudgeting practices of a previous administration have ended, he said.
“I treat the budget of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office much like it was my own household budget,” he said.
As an example, Lamouree mentioned a purchase three years ago, when he negotiated a $90,000 price for a software package that originally carried a price tag between $120,000 and $125,000.
Lamouree said he has been aggressive in going after grants. Over the last eight years, he has obtained $4.7 million in grants for things such as technology updates in the dispatch office.
He got a grant being administered through the Warren-Washington Association for Mental Health to help screen people who come into the jail for addiction, drug use and mental health issues, which helps with treatment plans.
“The goal is to reduce recidivism — keep them from coming back to jail,” he said.
He has worked on a program to allow representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to come into the Warren County jail.
Of the roughly 140 people in the jail, about 80 are dealing with some type of psychological issue, he said.
“The prisons, the jails have become the dumping ground for our mentally ill right now and that truly is not the place for them to be,” he said.
Lamouree acknowledged an issue with turnover at the jail. Some employees take the job because it’s a way to get started in law enforcement.
“It’s difficult because it’s not a high-paying job. You’re in a facility where people have been accused of a crime,” he said.
But it’s important to maintain high standards at the county jail, he said. The county had problems with jail staff in the past, and the Sheriff’s Office has worked to eliminate that, he said. He pointed to problems in other counties such as Albany, which has seen a scandal where recruits were cheating on exams.
Lamouree said he would sit down with corrections staff and administration to find out their concerns.
Before becoming undersheriff, Lamouree was in charge of the investigations division, which handled a lot of narcotics cases. In the last 10 years, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office has beefed up its narcotics unit from two officers to eight. The department coordinates with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration and has good relationships with these federal units other local law enforcement agencies, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has reached out to the Glens Falls Police Department to ask if it wanted to add officers to the county’s emergency response team. Three city officers have joined, he said.
Lamouree is also responsible for putting together the school resource officer program, which he believes has been effective. Students are respectful and happy to see the officers in school, he said. The program is about building relationships, he said.
“It’s OK to talk to the guy in uniform. We’re people too,” he said.
Lamouree has selected a retired State Police major, William Sprague, to be his undersheriff. Lamouree said it would be a smooth transition if he was elected.
“I know I would carry on the professionalism and transparency that we’ve known under Sheriff York,” he said. “I don’t believe it would be a big change.”
Lamouree is running against Major Jim LaFarr. Regardless of what happens in the June 25 primary, both men will be on the ballot in November as LaFarr has the Conservative Party line and Lamouree has the Independence line.