Montgomery County sheriff race challenger says department is spread too thin -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated on June 5, 2014.

As Thomas R. Falcinelli Jr. sees it, the biggest problem in the Montgomery County aheriff’s office is staffing.

“Numbers, working bodies, that’s your first priority,” said Falcinelli, who’s challenging incumbent and fellow Democrat Darren Popkin in this year’s sheriff’s race.

In the June 24 primary, voters will decide who to advance to the general election in November, when there will be no Republican challenger.

Falcinelli, 54, of Silver Spring, has a 29-year career in law enforcement. He’s a Montgomery County police sergeant and an attorney.

Outside of policing, he is the director of officials for the Indoor Football League and is a former referee for the National Football League.

Falcinelli accused the current leadership of creating top-heavy staffing at managerial levels while leaving other aspects of the department understaffed. The effect, he said, is a sheriff’s department that’s spread too thin, causing some of the sheriff department’s responsibilities — such as the late-night transport of inmates — to be shifted to Montgomery County police.

If elected sheriff, Falcinelli said, he would refocus the department’s priorities back on its core duties — serving orders, transporting inmates and protecting the court. Officers would be pulled from temporary assignments that didn’t involve the department’s core functions until staffing numbers improved, he said.

Falcinelli said he would preserve the sheriff department’s commitment to help staff the Family Justice Center, a one-stop program that works with a range of agencies to help victims of domestic violence find shelter and other resources to protect themselves and their children from abusive partners.

But Falcinelli said that even the Family Justice Center has had bloated staffing from the sheriff’s department, a situation he described as “overkill.”

“That’s an important, worthwhile effort,” Falcinelli said of the Family Justice Center. “But there has to be balance.”

Falcinelli unsuccessful ran for sheriff in 2010, the year Popkin was elected.

He said he hadn’t considered running during this election until he was approached by deputies who said they wanted change.

Falcinelli said he wants to “provide these guys an option.”