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Sheriff James Cummings: A Look Back at a Busy Year

Filed in NEWS HEADLINES, Police by on December 28, 2017 0 Comments • views: 434

Problem-solving: A look back at a busy year
by Sheriff James Cummings

As 2017 goes into the books, a look back seems in order.  As always, much has happened both inside the jail and out.  

The year started with a bang, made possible by scores of loyal supporters and tens of thousands of voters who brought me to a January inauguration — and my fourth term as your Sheriff bringing many new (and some old) challenges.

One is the opiate crisis and the affect it has had on the inmates arriving here.  More and more are in need of mental health and addiction services.  As a percentage of the whole, it seems, fewer are willing to make the best of what is for them an unwanted situation.  

In this regard, 2017 ended as it began, searching for ways to create beds for mental health inmates in an appropriate setting, not inside a county facility ill-suited for that population.  In the meantime, shorter term, training specific to this issue was given to staff near year’s end.   The officer corps itself was also bolstered when 30 new correction cadets completed an early spring academy and reported for duty.  

Meanwhile, as they were graduating, seven BSCO interns from Cape Cod Community College were just beginning an inaugural 22-credit program that will enhance their standing as future officer candidates.  Some of the interns, in fact, were later offered slots in another new Sheriff’s academy, this one beginning in March.  

I talked in my January inaugural speech about needing to expand inmate educational offerings, and we’ve made progress on that front.  It began the prior year when we started giving pre-trial offenders the same opportunity sentenced inmates have to earn a high school equivalency diploma.  

This past August, we did the same thing with our RSAT (Residential Substance Abuse Treatment) unit.  Once chosen, our inaugural candidate, awaiting trial for third offense OUI, minced no words: “I’ve learned more in one week in RSAT,” said the 36-year-old Harwich man, “than I did in my first two months in a pre-trial unit.”   

In October, with an assist from Gosnold treatment center, we were able to offer a trauma-sensitive yoga program to our women’s population and kicked off a second new program for female inmates as well.  This one provides pass-along instruction to help their children avoid a drug-abusing life style.  

For the fourth or fifth consecutive year, I again spread the good news about our success with the opiate-blocker drug Vivitrol.  The biggest stage this year was in nearby Boston, where the National Governor’s Association sponsored a conference with the accurate if lengthy title: “A Learning Lab on Expanding Access to Opioid Disorder Treatment for Justice-involved Populations.”  I joined fellow Sheriff Peter Koutoujian of Middlesex County on the dais and used the occasion to extol the virtues of Vivitrol to judicial, corrections, and public safety decision-makers from nine states.  That was in June and later the same month Governor Charlie Baker weighed in where it matters most, awarding us a $179,000 grant to help in the opioid fight.

Two thousand, seventeen was also year of great individual achievements.   In May, thirteen deputies won a prestigious State House Department of Correction award for helping disarm and end a dangerous, 7½-hour stand-off in Mashpee, where a dangerously-armed suspect had used his perch in an electronics store to announce he’d “kill the first cop who tries to enter.”  (Cited were staffers Robert AHONEN, Jim ANGLIN, Peter BENSON, Jason BUMPUS, Chris CARD, Jeff CIAMPA, Chris EORDEKIAN, Kevin FERNANDES, Lou LANGTON, Pat MARTIN, Barney MURPHY, Paul RODERICK, and Ralph SWENSON.)   

Next up was Deputy Eric Iverson.  He was en route to check on his mother during a power outage on a late August night when he came across two men grappling in the travel lane of Route 6 (eastbound) in Yarmouth.  He jumped in to help one, a State Police trooper, try to get control of the other, an OUI suspect.  Reinforcements soon arrived and the marathon fight ended with the suspect secured and Iverson and the trooper “gasping for air.”  But were it not for Iverson’s “selfless assistance,” writes the incident’s supervising lieutenant in an after-action report, “harm would have likely come to the trooper.”

The following month, two Sheriff’s maritime deputies aboard our patrol boat thrust the throttle to full-speed-ahead to reach a pair of distressed swimmers in a mere two minutes.  And good thing skipper John Doherty and crewman Peter Benson did.  The swimmers had been caught in a rip tide at Old Silver Beach in Falmouth and were barely clinging to the side of a small fishing boat that had also responded.  The deputies tossed each water-logged swimmer a life ring and pulled them aboard.

In October, our special operations office provided critical information that helped secure the arrest of a dangerous felon on the State Police’s “Most Wanted” list.  Thomas Vargus was arrested in Marcus Hook, a tiny hamlet in Pennsylvania, for attacking a dog and the woman walking it – wielding a machete in both cases.  Good detective work in the line of duty.

The year saw another pile of “Inmate at Work” jobs tackled and completed.  The numbers will be computed shortly after year’s end but this much I can tell you: Municipal and non-profit agencies on Cape Cod once again got plenty of donated inmate labor to help them paint and hammer, trowel and rake, harvest and saw, erect and scrub their way through dozens of projects.

The final three months of the season brought out the best in our workforce.  The same men and women who take public service seriously at the workplace pitched in to donate to Hurricane Irma victims in Florida.  With help from Cape Cod police chiefs – who established drop-offs at their headquarters – we joined Sheriff Offices in Plymouth and Norfolk counties to collect 60 pallets of dry goods, non-perishable food, children’s clothing and household cleaning supplies.  Teamsters from Local 25 donated the trucks and driving hours, and our brother and sister sheriff employees in Monroe County, Florida handled distribution at that end.  It was a collaborative effort sorely needed by scores of grateful hurricane victims.  

It seemed those 18-wheelers had barely rumbled off when our employees were at it again for the Christmas season, donating toys and cash for this years chosen cause – Homeless for the Holidays.  Charitably inclined constituents also dropped off toys and checks here at the jail, the latter totaling more than $1,000.  

Saving the best for last, news arrived in late December that the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, had approved our application to join its 287(g) program.  That means four of our deputies will learn how to identify, process, and when appropriate continue to detain those immigration offenders in our custody who have committed or are charged with serious crimes.  The goal is straightforward: To enhance public safety by identifying aliens, lodging appropriate immigration detainers, and commencing removal proceedings on potentially deportable criminal aliens already booked into our facility.

And 2017 is now in the past.  On to a new year, new challenges and the one constant that has marked my tenure here: A staff that’s taken to heart the advice of New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick.  They “do their job” and they do it very well.   




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