Suffolk sheriff candidates Larry Zacarese and Errol Toulon Jr. extolled their own experience for the $194,243-a-year job while criticizing each other’s qualifications in a News 12 Long Island debate.
Toulon, a Lake Grove Democrat, cited his 27 years as an officer with the New York City Department of Correction, where he became deputy commissioner.
Toulon said the sheriff’s job needs someone who is “tried, tested” and has the experience to battle the opioid epidemic.
Zacarese, a Kings Park Republican who is assistant chief of the Stony Brook University police, said his experience as a New York City police sergeant, emergency medical technician and volunteer firefighter have “completely prepared me” to become sheriff. Zacarese criticized Toulon for his late entry into the race last month as the Democrats’ third sheriff’s candidate. “If he had the commitment and the dedication to be here in the race, he should have been here 10 months ago,” Zacarese said.
The taped half-hour debate was scheduled to be available for viewing beginning Tuesday night on News12.com and Optimum channel 612.
Toulon and Zacarese stressed their political independence.
Zacarese said he was “the proverbial outsider” in his successful Republican primary this fall against state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), and won “not owing political bosses any favors.”
Toulon said he left his job as deputy city corrections commissioner because of political pressure involving reporting of the extent of inmate violence.
“I was someone who refused to be part of that process and chose to resign and leave the office,” Toulon said.
Zacarese said Toulon as a deputy commissioner allowed city jail violence to “go through the roof.” Toulon responded he was in charge of training and applicant investigation, functions that federal monitors praised, and was “not responsible for the violence at Rikers Island.”
Both candidates did agree on the importance of community outreach and the need to provide drug treatment for inmates jailed for drug-related crime to reduce recidivism.