By: Tammy Daniels On: 12:23AM / Thursday June 17, 2010
Tom Bowler, left, Town Democratic Committee Chairman James E. Mahon Jr. and Daniel E. Bosley at Wednesday's forum.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It became clear during Wednesday night's forum that the primary difference between the two candidates for sheriff was their definition of the job: Law enforcement or public safety.
The disparity in perception can be immediately traced to the backgrounds of the two men who hope to become Berkshire County sheriff, a seat that's open for the first time in more than 30 years.
Tom Bowler, a 24-year police officer and detective in the Pittsfield Police Department, says the job is everything to do with law enforcement; Daniel E. Bosley, a 26-year legislator representing the 1st Berkshire District, says it's public safety.
"I submit this election is going to be about whether people agree that it's law enforcement job or whether it's a public safety or administrative job," said Bosley, after a verbal tussle with an apparent Bowler supporter at the end of the 90-minute session.
It was standing room only in the Selectmen's Room as supporters from Williamstown, Adams, North Adams, Lanesborough and Pittsfield packed into the chamber to hear their candidate. More than a few were clad in blue Bowler T-shirts to declare their support for the detective.
Both candidates fielded questions from the audience, ranging from mangement style to health care costs.
The forum was hosted by the Williamstown Democratic Town Committee and moderated by its Chairman James E. Mahon Jr. It was broadcast live on WilliNet and will be available later on the WilliNet website and is expected to be broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television.
The two Democrats are seeking to fill the seat being left vacant by retiring Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who has held the position since 1978. With no independent or Republican candidate, the election will essentially be decided in the Sept. 14 primary.
During the forum, the candidates took questions from the audience and, in large part, agreed on the broader needs of the job, including that the sheriff has role to play as a social service provider for inmates in terms of rehabilitation and substance-abuse services.
"I firmly believe that the individual, you have to understand their behavior," said Bowler. "Not every person is a bad individual; they've made bad decisions."
As a police officer, he said, not only are you there to take care of the situation, you help families understand how they can get help. "What we like to do is educate families, show them they can make their lives better."
Bosley said he believed 75 percent of the state's sheriffs were social workers, pointing to Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe as an example.
On average, Houses of Correction have an inmate for nine months, inmates who have substance abuse problems, come from single-parent homes, poverty ... , he said, and facilities need to find ways to work with existing programs inside and outside the jails. "We need to find a way to be more seamless with the programs we have."
Both advocated more training programs, particularly vocational programs, to help inmates integrate back into the community and as a way to bring revenue to the jail — either by wages (for restitution) or selling items they created.
Bosley touted his ability as a representative to bring money into the county, including funding for the nearly decade-old House of Correction. His contacts in Boston and Washington, D.C., would help tap into federal and state monies, he said.
Bowler said he would look for innovative funding, such as private foundation grants as well as government monies, to aid with training programs and equipment.
For Bowler, election to sheriff would be the culmination of his career in law enforcement. "I feel everything I've done in the last 24 years has led me to that position."
He stressed his time as an investigator covering some of the most "horrific crimes" in Berkshire County, his understanding of the inmate population, the area's drug and gang problems, and his yearlong stint as assistant deputy superintendent overseeing security during the move into the new House of Correction facility.
"I want to work collaboratively," said Bowler, both as an administrator with the jail's staff and with local law enforcement. "There's the tremendous amount of information inside that jail. I've been able to extract that information and solve crimes ... I think I have a lot to offer as a public servant, not as a politician."
Bosley said he would ensure "bright lines of authority" and would assess performance and delegate authority as needed. "You have to let people do their jobs."
"I'm proud of the fact I'm a politician. A good politician is a statesman," he said, adding he accomplished nearly everything he'd set out to do, including several landmark legislative actions, and now wanted to focus on the county. He said he was familiar with the workings of the state's correctional facilities, including the Houses of Correction and stated "The sheriff has the opportunity to affect people's lives."
But where they disagreed was on the definition of the job, a point stressed by one of the audience members, who proceeded to engage with Bosley over the authorities given by the state to the deputy force and by Bowler's description of how he'd handled a potential uprising by 50 inmates some years ago. Deputies were law enforcement, insisted the man.
(Massimiano worked for the North Adams Housing Authority and in the probation office when he was elected sheriff.)
"I don't intend to run the [jail] that way," said Bosley of using the deputies to make arrests or back up local police. "It's tough enough to be a correctional officer within the House and our budget is stretched enough without giving people additional duties for jobs that other people do and do very well."
When the individual started giving "what if" scenarios, Bosley said he wasn't going to debate him and Bowler, too.
Bowler said he wanted to make clear that "I have no intention of putting roving patrols of officers patrolling Berkshire County. ... If [an inmate] escapes then we will work on a collaborative effort with every law enforcement authority in the county, as we have in the past."
The websites for both candidates can be found on the blog's siderail.
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There is a reason why Bowler has the support of all the employees who work there. There is a reason why Bosely has zero support from the employees. The employees want a Sheriff who will lead them, be more hands on, spend more time at the facility, encourage a teamwork approach. That is what Tom Bowler will bring to the job.
If Bosely is so good at getting grants and money why has the our budget at the BCSO been cut more than any other facility in the state. Bosely will be a figurehead who delegates everything to his subordinates. This is why Bowler has the support of the employees.
Wasn't Speakers of the House Salvatore F. DiMasi and Tom Finneran friends of Rep. Bosley and on his legislative watch? Detective Bowler helps prosecute people like them, not coverup for them. How can Rep. Bosley diminish a career in law enforcement fighting crime on the streets for one of wining and dining with lobbyists and covering up corruption in local, state and federal government.
"I'm proud of the fact I'm a politician. A good politician is a statesman," he said, adding he accomplished nearly everything he'd set out to do, including several landmark legislative actions, and now wanted to focus on the county."
So what was he focused on for the 20+ years as our representitive. I'm sorry Mr.Bosley,maybe you were good at drafting stem cell legislation or fighting casino gambling (none of which have anything to do with Berkshire County)but while you were schmoozing in the halls of Beacon Hill, Tom Bowler was working the streets of Berkshire County and as not just a police officer but as a social worker, counselor, and educator. I would have no problem sending Bosley back to Beacon Hill but as for this job, it's way out of his league.
It's so nice to see the Bowler camp is running such a "positive" campaign. So far, all I've seen from his supporters are comments about how Bosley "isn't qualified" for the job, is a "politician," may be tied to previous tainted politicians, etc. Yet none of you say what Bowler will do as Sheriff. He was a detective, and a very good one, no one doubts that. It doesn't automatically mean he will be the best candidate for Sheriff. The job has tremendous administrative responsibilities, and like it or not, is a political job that requires political connections at home and across the state. Dan has those qualifications. And as for Sorry Dan, casino gambling does have something to do with the Berkshires. It will impact all of Massachusetts, and the initial proposals a few years back cited a possible casino in the Berkshires. You may not like his stand on casinos, but Dan has been consistently opposed. Disagree if you will, but don't try to claim that that issue is not valid and should be discussed.
I've come to the conclusion that much of Bowler's support in North County is actually "anti" Bosley. I see people who are still mad that Bosley campaigned hard for Barrett saying stuff. I hear others say that Boz is Carmen's handpicked successor.
The irony that payback politics is a more important criterion to many of those who don't want a "politician" as Sheriff is kinda' amusing.
I don't know Bowler beyond recognition, but I do know Dan personally and professionally and he would make a fine Sheriff. Could Bowler get my vote? Maybe if he actually says or does something that makes me think he is great candidate, but so far I have not seen anything from him other than gladhanding at meet and greets.
The Sheriffs Office will provide as a massive resource for local Police departments who are struggling with todays local economy. Bowler really showed us exactly who he was tonight;calm and cool as a cucumber!while Bosley exposed himself as he got mad at an individual in the crowd. What will dan do when a convict calls his bluff? will he loose his cool again?
Saw these two face off on Willinet the other night.
Clearly, one is a law enforcement officer, and one is a political being. "Public Safety". Not to say that either one can't help and support the other, but it would help a person to sleep at night, knowing that the person in charge of the jail has a career-long institutional memory of the jail and the culture of criminals. Hands-on.
Do I like Capeless? NO.
The idea that Bosley would spin the JOB of the Sheriff into a delegatory, hands-off position begs the question... WHY? ... and the answer may indeed be his shallow political perception of the job, and his own self-interest. His pension.
What I'm interested in knowing is... why would Bosley put himself in such a vulnerable position? Pension increases notwithstanding, he's a seasoned politician, and he must know how this is playing out to observers. He's clearly not Sheriff material, and not qualified for the job.
I'm interested in knowing what kind of "bones" culture may have existed between Stracuzzi, Massimiano, Barrett, and Bosley (and who knows what other players) over the past two decades whilst we were all enjoying Wal-Mart.
This is not an accusation, just an observation, and some begging questions.
Why? I keep hearing this one phrase - "knowing who to call for money". To me, that is a tacit admission of "running an end run around Democracy".
It's even more than that. Whose eyes are sizing up the room for supporters, and whose eyes are showing a comprehensive understanding for the nuances of the job - en pointe, from experience, while talking?
If you watch this meeting, you will clearly see Bosley agreeing with every point Bowler makes - but Bosley then goes on to talk off his time with his political rep sheet. He deserves credit for that - but how is it germane to the office of Sheriff?
Bosley himself knows that Bowler is the better man for Sheriff. Why would he commit political suicide like this? Has he retired from Beacon Hill? Is he looking to "put up feed" from the private sector? If so, Good! He has a record - let him EARN it, rather than get 'slotted/squirmed' into a step-up by the easy peasy 14 September primary for Sheriff. Yeah, Boz, you look so like a SHERIFF (gimmee a break!)
His position was a privilege, not a right.
Amazing what you see, if you hang around long enough...
No disrespect to Mr. Bowler, but the Sheriff's job in Massachusetts isn't law enforcement like it is in other states. If he doesn't realize that yet; he could be in trouble. To that end, the same way someone else wonders why Mr. Bosley would leave the Legislature, why is Mr. Bowler is leaving the police force? Could it be that he sees the Quinn Benefits and detail money leaving soon? I don't begrudge the man trying to provide for his family, but be honest about it.
Clarksburg: Election, May 27; town meeting, May 28
Williamstown: Election, May 13, 7-8; town meeting, May 20, 7 p.m.
The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015
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