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Juan's priorities for the Sheriff's Office:

• New approaches to the opioid epidemic

Opioid addiction afflicts both the rich and the poor, in every corner of our county. Pills and street meth are relatively easy to obtain. Overdose deaths in Ulster County have increased 180% since 2010. Current policies emphasize arrests, and the use of opioid antagonists (Narcan) to intervene in overdose crises. But these are temporary fixes, when what we need are comprehensive strategies to tackle this epidemic.

Communities must learn to recognizing signs of emerging drug behaviors before they manifest into severe addiction. Education and vigilance in families will prevent them from becoming unknowing enablers. There is much to learn from those who have lost loved ones.

Law enforcement must partner with county health agencies and becom conduits to rehabilitation. People coping with addiction should feel safe to show up at the Sheriff's department without fear of prosecution — to turn over their supply or be taken to a center for treatment.

State officials have a role to play in launching lawsuits against drug companies and cartels. The Sheriff's department would play a part in interrupting their operations within the county.

• A COMMUNITY Approach to POLICING

Ulster County is lacking when it comes to community involvement and law enforcement. This erodes mutual trust. Deputies are deployed as state enforcers without training in psychology, community dynamics, or how to de-escalate situations.

Figueroa proposes targeted training programs by experienced professionals in crisis and conflict management. There should be ongoing community involvement and regular public forums in all communities. Further, it's time for a First Chance program to steer young offenders in vulnerable communities toward job programs.

When it comes to immigrants, Sheriffs are bound by due process of law. Only immigrants convicted of a felony may be reported to ICE. Immigrants must feel free to report crimes to the department, or seek protection from the law. Without this trust, all residents become less safe.

• Better Department Management

The current Sheriff Department has cost Ulster County taxpayers $480,000 in lawsuits: employment and pregnancy discrimination from within the department. There have been incidents of sexual harassment and racially charged communications, creating a workplace that is low in morale.

It is time for new leadership to unite and re-inspire department staff. We must foster a culture of learning, teamwork, and self-improvement. Merit recognition and promotion must be awarded equitably.

There will be zero tolerance for bigotry and harassment within the department. Figueroa as Sheriff will never politicize the office with statements that antagonize or endanger the public.
 

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