After many years, a strong candidate has challenged Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura in the Democratic Party primary election. It is vital for the citizens to know if their tax dollars are going in the right direction or not.
Dhiren Shah: Welcome Mr. Arnold to this interview. Why are you running for the sheriff’s position even though Armando Fontoura is a strong candidate and has strong political connections?
John Arnold: I think I am the best man for the job at this point. He is a strong candidate and politically connected. He should not be in the office forever. The platform we are running on is much more about what Essex County needs. Murder in Newark and Essex County; right now, law enforcement does not have solution. The Essex County Sheriff is more responsible for that. We are intent to change it.
DS: What can you offer the people of Essex County that Armando Fontoura cannot?
JA: We must first examine what he has done for citizens of Essex County…nothing. The citizens of Essex need an interacting sheriff’s office that maintains law and order in Essex. I will be a real serious crime fighter. Right now, the sheriff’s department is not a proactive police department.
DS: What innovation can you bring to the position of Essex County Sheriff?
JA: I will have an innovative approach to the sheriff’s department. So far, it was reactionary. We will take a different approach to stop crime before it happens. We want to prevent crime, not after child dies. Prevent it before houses are broken into. Crime is different in areas like Newark and the suburbs. We have to approach it differently. It has not been done currently.
DS: What different approach will you take?
JA: Crime is differently perpetrated in urban area and the suburbs. You can’t fight in Newark like in Short Hills. Crime is not a cookie cutter.
DS: In such tough economic times, how would you handle the lack of available funds in regards to running the day to day operations?
JA: That’s a misconception. There are a lot of things we can have with an innovative approach. There is money available to fight crime. He (Fontoura) has not used the money effectively. We definitely have to engage with the community. Get out of the Sheriff’s car and go to the community. The sheriff is advocating the funds, but he is not using them effectively. Right now, funds go to vehicles and overtime. We want to advocate for crime fighting and education.
DS: What is the most important thing you have learned from your time as a police captain?
JA: We (law enforcement) don’t work together as well as we should. The current issue, the survey conducted in the Muslim community, showed there was no true leadership amongst law enforcement and the community in Essex County. We have different municipalities, same crime but investigations are conducted differently. We have funds, but they are not utilized properly.
DS: You mentioned funds not utilized properly, what do you mean?
JA: Agencies require a lot of funds for manpower and use of equipment. Only a few times is it filtered out with the community and grassroots organizations. Most of the time, we have money utilized for overtime and equipment purchases. When the department does not use the money, it just sits there. We will establish a proactive community, junior police academy, and sheriff’s cadets program. We will educate and give knowledge of law enforcement to young children.
DS: Urban Essex County is infamous for crime. What will be the first thing you will do to curtail the crime that is plaguing the community?
JA: Identify high crime areas and individuals who are known to be perpetrators and establish a group design to target major crime, gangs, drugs and high crime areas in Essex County.
DS: What deficiencies do you see in the sheriff’s department?
JA: 1. A lack of true diversity. Law enforcement should reflect what it serves. The Sheriff’s office does injustice to the group of people who work. It is not diverse.
2. The sheriff’s statute limits the amount of deputies. We want to look at the existing sheriff’s deputies. How can they be improved upon to effect change in the community? Deputies are volunteers and officers are paid positions.
DS: People are complaining that the department only serves the rich and powerful. What can you do to change that perception?
JA: I agree with you 100%. That is the image for the current sheriff’s department. Under my leadership, there will be no difference, based upon your economic status in life. When crime hits the rich, it has the same effect as when it happens to the poor. “Justice should be fair, blind and impartial.” My family can relate to urban and suburban areas. What a person look like never matters to me when I investigate the crime.
DS: Do you have anything to say to the voters?
JA: My deep belief is that government should not be succession leadership. They can’t serve only people of influence. I am not really a politician. I am a crime fighter, and my door will be open for the people of Essex County. If the voters don’t make a decision on June 5th, the Sheriff will be in office for 7 terms, not seen in the community, crime through the roof. In order for taxes to be stable, we have to have innovative approach to fight crime. I believe our children are entitles to be free of drugs, gang members, robbers and all kinds of crime. Someone has to stand up and put end to the bloodshed in the community. I will do it.