Monday, February 26, 2007

Why Northampton County Does Not Elect its Sheriff

Northampton County has plenty of problems, to be sure. Our sheriff is not one of them. Sheriffs here are appointed by the county executive. Selection process could certainly be improved to ensure independence. But as things stand, our deputies are probably the finest law enforcement professionals in the county.

Jeff Hawbecker, Northampton County's sheriff, is a quietly effective guy. I once saw him in the parking lot farthest from the courthouse, parking his car at the very end, ensuring a lengthy uphill walk to the government center. He could insist on a spot right by the nearest entrance, and would be justified. But as he walked uphill, umbrella in hand, he told me he's trying to set an example for other county employees.

Another high-ranking county official does that, too. His name is John Stoffa. Me? I park in the judges' reserved spots. They love me. I'm sure they don't mind.

We certainly don't elect police chiefs. Professionalism in law enforcement suffers when exposed to electoral politics. Berks Democrats illustrates what happens in counties that elect sheriffs.

Allegheny County: "Allegheny County's former sheriff was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine Friday for benefiting from strong-arm political fundraising tactics."

Berks County: "[Sheriff] Jozwiak caused a $25 million lawsuit to be filed against the County because he broke the law by using the confidential gun registration list to send a political fund raising letter for a previous campaign."


Anonymous said...

For these very same reasons, I don't think judges should be elected, either.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The men in black dresses need to be more accountable to the public they serve. They are becoming increasingly isolated. I see your point but am extremely concerned at their growing isolation with private floors, dining rooms, bathrooms, etc. The only way to keep them honest and human is make them stand for election.