Sheriff candidate Diane Nelson

DIANE NELSON

The three candidates for the Republican nomination for Bedford County sheriff shared their views on a few topics which they may face in the next term should they be elected.

Their reponses will be listed as they are to appear on the ballot with Diane Nelson first followed by Erik Whisker and Wayne Emerick Jr.

———

Diane Nelson

Age: 42

Hometown: Everett

Occupation: Chief Deputy Sheriff, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office

Two years ago, a House bill was proposed to return full investigative and arrest powers on sheriff’s departments, which primarily handle security, prisoner transport and warrant serving for 67 county courts. The bill states sheriffs and deputies who undergo the “same type of training as municipal police officers” would have the authority “to make arrests, without warrants, for all crimes and offenses” enumerated in Pennsylvania’s criminal, traffic and drug laws. Would you favor increased authority for your deputies?

I am a firm believer that the more properly trained and certified law enforcement officers available to serve and protect the public the better. While the core duties of the Sheriff’s Office remains with the functioning of the courts, it would be conducive to law enforcement and the community as a whole for the Sheriff’s and their deputies to be able to investigate any and all crimes and make the necessary arrests associated with those investigations in an effort to provide more widespread law enforcement coverage.

Do you support increased security at the courthouse and what would you want that to look like?

I fully support enhanced security measures at the courthouse where the citizens of Bedford County frequent on nearly a daily basis. To enhance these security measures, I would work diligently with the County Commissioner’s and the judges to establish a single point of entry to the County Building whereby metal detectors could be erected and staffed by appropriately trained Sheriff Deputies to eliminate potential threats to not only the public but to county employees as well.

Is the sheriff’s office staffed sufficiently? If not, what would bring the office to full staffing?

As the current Chief Deputy Sheriff of the Sheriff’s Office I can confirm first hand that the office is not staffed to full compacity. This has become an issue in the recent past due to a lack of applicants for Deputy positions because of very low pay in comparison to surrounding counties. To rectify this matter, I would work in conjunction with the deputy’s union and the County Commissioner’s to the extent allowed by labor law to establish a more livable wage that will hopefully attract qualified applicants.

What do you want the public to know about what a sheriff does?

As an elected representative of the people it is imperative that the public be aware of the Sheriff’s duties. Sheriff’s and their deputies who act under the authority of the Sheriff are primarily responsible for the law enforcement services of the courts. These services include courtroom and county building security, prisoner transport, civil process and warrant servers. As a secondary measure, the Sheriff, with appropriately trained staff, may enforce the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code and the Pennsylvania Crimes Code with limited exception for on-view law violations.

Why are you the best candidate?

As the current Chief Deputy Sheriff of Bedford County, I have the background and experience needed to step in as your next Sheriff without delay. I have worked for the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office for 16 years as a Deputy Sheriff and for over 4 years as the Chief Deputy as second in command. I have performed every Sheriff’s Office function and trained my subordinates accordingly. Additionally, I have worked as a County Detective for the District Attorney’s Office for 14 years combating Bedford County’s drug epidemic and have 6 years of police experience with the Bedford Borough Police Department. I am also the only currently certified Sheriff candidate that does not require additional law enforcement certification for the Sheriff’s position. From a personal perspective, I am a pro-life and pro-gun supporter and would be honored to be our sheriff.

———

Erik Whisker

Age: 40

Hometown: Everett

Occupation: Supervisor, Peerstar LLC

Two years ago, a House bill was proposed to return full investigative and arrest powers on sheriff’s departments, which primarily handle security, prisoner transport and warrant serving for 67 county courts. The bill states sheriffs and deputies who undergo the “same type of training as municipal police officers” would have the authority “to make arrests, without warrants, for all crimes and offenses” enumerated in Pennsylvania’s criminal, traffic and drug laws. Would you favor increased authority for your deputies?

Representative Jim Marshall, among other representatives, wrote and introduced House Bill 466 proposing an amendment to Ttle 42: Judiciary and Judicial Procedure with the forethought of increasing the authority of deputy sheriffs in Pennsylvania. IN retrospect, House Bill 466 reflects continuous work decades past to restore the authority to the sheriff and deputy sheriffs to enforce arrests without warrants and investigations. To highlight, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of his or her respective county and it is my perception this should never have been an issue. Yes, I do favor increased authority for our sheriff and deputy sheriffs to enforce the Pa. Crimes Code, the Pa. Vehicle Code, the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetic Act.

Do you support increased security at the courthouse and what would you want that to look like?

The sheriff serves as the officer of the court. The sheriff and his deputies are responsible and expected to maintain and implement security practices at the courthouse in cooperation with all common pleas judges; public office elected officials; and all other employees. I must underscore that we live in a great community; however, our society is unpredictable. We have a criminal law court and a civil law court in operation throughout th business week in which the judicial system as a whole can produce intense emotions. I have developed a seven point agenda to being working on my first day as sheriff. I will work to create a security committee that will enable the sheriff’s office to collaborate with personnel within the courthouse to ensure safety protocols are efficient and confer about equipment (via grant money as applicable) that may be utilized for the safety of everyone in the courthouse. Yes, I appeal to the need of increased security depending on the need. The security committee will help to address the need for security through a comprehensive and critical systematic approach. It is not my itnention to transform the courthouse into an airport-type environment. We want the public to utilize their courthouse.

Is the sheriff’s office staffed sufficiently? If not, what would bring the office to full staffing?

The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office has been experiencing fluctuating attrition rates for years due to multiple reasons. Our Sheriff’s office has employed generations of new and experienced law enforcement officers who offer skills to meet the unique challenges of 21st-century law enforcement, however short-term. I have consulted with our current Sheriff to learn that our Sheriff’s Office has experienced an insufficient number of employees to perform the primary civil law roles and responsibilities mandated by the Pennsylvania Judicial and Judicial Procedure (Title 42). The Sheriff’s Office in general and the taxpayers in particular will benefit to retain an employee complement on both full-time and part-time employees to adjust as needed from serving civil process-tax notices; jury trials, inmate transportation; and responding to emergencies s the work can easily multiply. In turn, I want to assess current hiring practices from recruitment to retention by evaluating the system in progress.

What do you want the public to know about what a sheriff does?

The Sheriff serves in a unique, challenging and rewarding role within law enforcement as provided: Chief law enforcement officer, has the authority of posse comitatus, has the authority to issue Pennsylvania license to conceal a firearm, officer of the court, has county jurisdiction.

Why are you the best candidate?

My comprehensive education and experience will allow me to reintegrate into the Sheriff’s Office as a strong leader and efficient manager. Background includes education and experience in state Department of correction, Municipal Officer’s Education and Training Commission, Deputy Sheriff’s Training and Education Board, bachelors degree in criminal justice, and county corrections officves, deputy sheriff, lieutenant corrections officer; plus training in hostage negotiations, correctional emergency response, intelligence analysis and critical infrastructure protection.

———

Wayne Emerick Jr.

Age: 57

Hometown: Alum Bank

Occupation: Police officer, chief

Two years ago, a House bill was proposed to return full investigative and arrest powers on sheriff’s departments, which primarily handle security, prisoner transport and warrant serving for 67 county courts. The bill states sheriffs and deputies who undergo the “same type of training as municipal police officers” would have the authority “to make arrests, without warrants, for all crimes and offenses” enumerated in Pennsylvania’s criminal, traffic and drug laws. Would you favor increased authority for your deputies?

If the State legislators would decide to increase the powers, I would support the decision. If the powers were given, I would be the best trained candidate with my 33 years of Police experience and training. The deputies are already required to have 19 weeks of police training. This training parallels the current police training now. With my police executive experience I would be the best candidate to run the Sheriff office, if this would occur.

Do you support increased security at the courthouse and what would you want that to look like?

I would support whatever decision the Judge would set in place, since he is in charge of the Court system. The Sheriff carries out the orders from the judge. It would require at least five deputies if people are to be screened before entering the Courthouse. If this would be the case, then five more deputies would be required to be hired.

Is the sheriff’s office staffed sufficiently? If not, what would bring the office to full staffing?

I feel the office is not staffed sufficiently, and according to the current Sheriff in office, it is not. If elected I would argue for higher wages and do it in a way that would benefit both taxpayers and the deputies. I would ask for a base wage to be set with longevity pay increases.

What do you want the public to know about what a sheriff does?

The Sheriff serves the court system and enforces the orders set down by the judge. Those orders are serving Protection from abuse orders, Tax notice service, performing Levies on properties, enforcing bench warrants, and prisoner transports, along with performing court security.

Why are you the best candidate?

I am the best candidate because of my 33 years of Police experience, along with 30 years as a Police Chief. I have the most knowledge of law and the most leadership experience. I served as a Sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps. I led troops in a combat environment, and was taught to be a leader by the Marine Corps. I served as a first lieutenant in a volunteer fire department, where I had to make life saving decisions. The training I received over the 16 years, will help me as Sheriff, as I was trained in the incident command system, which a Sheriff must have, if he is to take control over a disaster that may occur in the county.

Contact Elizabeth Coyle at ecoyle@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 105.

Recommended for you

(0)comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.