Apr 22, 2014 Tami Scott Uncategorized
On March 1, the Onondaga County Republican Party chose DeWitt Police Chief Gene Conway as its designated candidate for county sheriff in the November elections. Subsequently, Conway’s Republican opponent, John Balloni, chief deputy to Sheriff Kevin Walsh, decided not to challenge him in a primary.
But it looks like there may still be a primary after all.
Baldwinsville resident and Republican John “Jack” Garafalo announced last week that he, too, will seek to run for sheriff. Garafalo, a retired Pennsylvania state drug agent who moved back to the area last fall, must collect 2,000 signatures in order to qualify for a September party primary.
Messenger Editor Tami Scott put in a call to this most recent contender in order to learn more about his reasons for running, his background in law enforcement and how his experience could potentially earn him the title of sheriff. Here’s what he had to say:
How long have you lived in Onondaga County?
I was born and raised in Syracuse. During my career, I came home a lot on the weekends, when I worked in Manhattan and then Philadelphia, to see my parents and family.
When did you decide to run for the position of sheriff?
I made the decision to run for sheriff last October. I started the process of moving back and changing addresses in November. I didn’t physically make it back to Baldwinsville until February.
What is your background in law enforcement?
I started in law enforcement in 1982 as a corrections officer at Jamesville Penitentiary and later worked at the new prison when it became the Onondaga County Correctional Facility. I then worked for Syracuse University Campus Police as an officer in the 1980s.
My career then took a turn when the former chief of Syracuse Police Thomas J. Sardino offered me a job when he was appointed chief of Amtrak Federal Police throughout the United States. I then worked as a police officer for Amtrak in Manhattan (Penn Station) and then Philadelphia, 30th Street Station. At Amtrak Police, I worked police patrol and drug enforcement interdiction, intercepting narcotics on the trains.
I then left Amtrak Police and received an appointment as a narcotics agent with the Pennsylvania State Bureau of Narcotics under the attorney general. I had many different assignments over the years. I worked at the Philadelphia International Airport with U.S. Customs (ICE) intercepting heroin traffickers. I was assigned to the F.B.I. Organized Crime Squad to work the mafia in Philadelphia. I also ran the PA Montgomery County Drug Task Force, which was the second largest drug task force in the United States.
After I retired, I worked part time training new United States air marshalls in surveillance and counter surveillance in 2004-05 at different international airports. I then started to pursue doing law enforcement commentary for T.V. in Manhattan and eventually Los Angeles. I have spent the last five-plus years between Philadelphia and Los Angeles pursuing T.V. and writing. Google John Jack Garafalo.
From 2006 to present, I am the director of training for ESVIA — Eastern States Vice Investigators Association. I recruit police instructors for narcotics and vice crimes. Go to esvia.org and click on Conference and see my schedule for ESVIA-2014 Virginia Beach.
Why are you running for sheriff?
I’m running for sheriff because it’s a good job and I can truly touch people’s lives by helping them in their hour of need. As children, we are taught to help others and law enforcement has been a great tool for me to do that. It goes both ways. I have also received help when I was in trouble!
Nothing is more rewarding than being able to help another human being when they’re in trouble. The example that always comes into my mind is the firefighter who rescues someone like the Atlanta firefighter a few years back who was strapped to a helicopter and then lifted 50 stories up in the air to rescue a man from a burning platform — even Hollywood can’t compete with that.
What platform are you running on and how do you plan to implement these goals as sheriff?
As your sheriff, I will re-direct and implement investigative units that have been lacking in Onondaga County for a long time.
Quality of life issues: A unit for elderly abuse that really looks into the criminal aspect and investigates this crime.
Safer schools in Onondaga County for your children and grandchildren: We have an epidemic of violence in the schools across the country.
A unit for neighborhood drug dealers and bullies that is proactive and doesn’t wait until we have active crimes and people hurt. This can been done through the current budget by re-directing and correctly using funds. I will personally work with the county executive and the legislator to accomplish this.
As far as the jail (Onondaga County Justice Center), I have actually worked as a correctional officer and been “on the inside” as inmates call it. Literally, until you’ve spent 10-hour days locked in with inmates and dealing with all the problems that arise in a jail setting, you can’t say you fully understand how to run a large jail, it doesn’t work like that. I also have extensive experience with arresting drug dealers.
Why are you the best candidate for the job?
As far the best candidate for the job, for me, that will be decided by the voters of Onondaga County on Sept. 9 in a primary run-off between myself and Gene Conway, currently the chief of the Dewitt Police Department.
I don’t have any baggage with the sheriff’s department. I don’t owe anybody anything from the sheriff’s department. We seem to forget that the people of Onondaga County don’t work for the sheriff, the sheriff works for the people of Onondaga County who pays the sheriff’s salary.
Gene Conway was part of the command staff of the sheriff’s department he now says needs change. He was part of the sheriff’s department that a select few received huge overtime salaries paid for by you, the voters of Onondaga County. Why does Gene Conway seem to suddenly care now when he was part of the problem at the sheriff’s department that created the budget crisis the sheriff’s department currently finds itself now in. Conway manages a police department of 29 patrol officers. The sheriff’s department has approximately 650 employees. The sheriff’s department is over 20 times bigger than the Dewitt Police Department.
I ran the Montgomery Drug Task Force outside of Philadelphia. I had nearly 500 police officers and an overtime budget, which had surpluses each year. As I’ve stated in my radio ads, I have worked on the largest narcotics and organized crime cases in the United States of America. I have also been in the gutter buying crack cocaine and heroin undercover. I will add that I was not a good undercover officer. I was constantly challenged by drug dealers because they said I looked too much like a cop. My boss’ at the bureau finally put me in as secondary undercover role before I got hurt. I did much better in that role, especially working undercover mafia cases.
I am a graduate of the United States Federal Law Enforcement Academy, the Attorney General’s Advanced Drug Agent Academy and the New York City Police Academy held at Jon Jay College so I have solid law enforcement schools.
Do you have a role model?
Every cop has their heroes and I’m no different. My hero here is retired Onondaga County Deputy Sheriff Alex Romanako who was an incredible undercover officer. He was the leader of the sheriff’s department swat team and is a combat wounded Vietnam veteran. Alex received the Medal of Honor by Sheriff John C. Dillon for his actions during a shooting after he was stabbed.
As you know, you must have 2,000 signatures on your petition before you can qualify to run in a September primary. How many have you collected so far and how are you getting your word out to county residents?
Getting 2,000 signatures will be a challenge but the process gives us enough time to do it. I have hired Jim Murphy, who is the former head of personnel for the New York State Assembly. Jim has worked on numerous campaigns all over New York state and has been a great asset to me.
I have also retained Assemblyman Philip Steck as my attorney for all legal issues that may arise during the campaign. I know before you say it, he’s a Democrat, yes I know! But Assemblyman Steck came highly recommended by law enforcement. We don’t always agree on things, but I’ll tell one thing, Phil is not a yes man. He has challenged me on my views over and over, which I think has made me a better candidate.
Do you have any fundraising events set up yet? If so, when and where?
Fundraising is difficult for me. My mother and I have donated to many campaigns over the years; however, asking for money is not one of my strong points. To answer your question, yes, I will hold some fund raising events in the future!
Find out more information about John “Jack” Garafalo on his Facebook page, John Garafalo for Sheriff.