Errol D. Toulon Jr. was ceremonially sworn in Friday as Suffolk’s first African-American sheriff since the office was created in 1683.
He promised to battle opioids and gangs while helping prisoners who want to reclaim their lives.
Toulon took the oath of office from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo while his wife, Christina, held a family Bible. The ceremony was held in Van Nostrand Theater on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College.
The second-generation correction professional became the 67th county sheriff and the first African-American elected to any nonjudicial countywide office in Suffolk.
Toulon, who only entered the race six weeks before Election Day, told the audience of more than 400, “the race has been a whirlwind, but it is a job I’ve prepared for my entire life.”
Toulon, 55, a two-time cancer survivor from Lake Grove, spent 24 years as a New York City correction officer, in positions including correction academy teacher and deputy correction commissioner.
Toulon also was an aide to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and served on the board of the Suffolk County Water Authority. He said that early on, he was a batboy for the Yankees.
“He spent 20 years patrolling the toughest streets in our community — our jails,” said Bellone.
Cuomo said Toulon’s election was not only historic, but “it says something about the people of Suffolk County, it’s says something about the progress of society and something about acceptance.”
Cuomo noted that both he and Toulon had followed in their fathers’ footsteps — Cuomo is the son of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, while Toulon’s father is a retired Rikers Island warden.
The governor praised the elder Toulon, who was in the audience, for doing a “magnificent job,” and said his son’s career choice only indicates “he has the greatest respect for the man who set the example.” Sons, Cuomo said, “can only hope to do the job half as well as their fathers.”
Toulon recalled some who said voters were not ready for a black sheriff. “The great people of Suffolk County proved the pundits wrong,” he said.
He noted his opponent for sheriff conceded on the 62nd anniversary of Rosa Parks refusal to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama.
Toulon vowed to battle violent gangs by increasing jail intelligence and sharing information with other law enforcement agencies.
“These gangs might think they are tough,” he said. “But they are going to have a lot of time to think about their decisions when they are behind bars.”
But Toulon said he will work to help county jail inmates who want to straighten out their lives. He said he would seek case managers for those with mental health issues and treatment for those with drug problems.
Toulon also said he will reach out to educate parents about the danger of prescription drugs, and to young people about how their lives can quickly “spiral out of control” with opioids.
“I want to get to them before they get to me,” Toulon said.