BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – Woodbury Police Chief Richard Vasquez officially threw his hat into the ring for the Rockland sheriff’s race on Monday, announcing his intent to run against current Sheriff Louis Falco. The Rockland County Times first reported Vasquez would be running a month ago.
Speaking before a crowd of supporters, many of whom were affiliated with the Rockland County Correction Officers Benevolent Association, Vasquez said he intended to revamp the Sheriff’s Department, improving its efficiency, technology and engagement with other local police departments and the community.
“This campaign is not about me and it’s not about the current sheriff and it isn’t about any one single person or special interest,” Vasquez said. “It’s about the people of Rockland County and how we can ensure that we are as safe and secure as possible.”
Arguing the Sheriff’s Department “must no longer be referred to as a duplication or an unnecessary service,” Vasquez stated he will focus on not only updating police tactics, training and organization but working to clean up redundancies and waste, a common complaint directed at the Department by officers and outside commentators.
“The general consensus in the county is that they are a duplication of service,” Vasquez pointed out. “I don’t believe that myself, but I do believe, however, that when I am in office they will be performing an essential function to serve the people of the county.”
The candidate also promised to strengthen police responses to issues such as drug enforcement, terrorism, Medicaid and welfare fraud, building and zoning code enforcement and public corruption, promising to enforce the law without favoritism and to target whichever crimes came to light.
Though Vasquez did not explicitly mention grievances among current officers, it is known the Correction Officers Benevolent Association issued its endorsement partly as a response to growing concerns of Falco’s treatment of their contract. The union represents over 150 members of Falco’s department.
Union President John Cocuzza accused Falco of failing to train officers in areas such as mental health and even deliberately hindered union efforts to meet diversity standards for women and minorities, particularly at the County Jail.
“The sheriff claims that he runs the department with fairness, with integrity, and with compassion, but he has failed at every level so far,” Cocuzza argued.
For his strong backing, Vasquez was anticipated as a favorite among Rockland Republicans seeking to unseat Falco. Even before his announcement, the candidate received a formal endorsement from Rockland County Correction Officers Benevolent Association in late February.
A consequent showing was made by many big names in local Republican leadership. Supporters in attendance included County Legislator Lon Hofstein, Receiver of Taxes Bob Simon, Clarkstown GOP Chair Ralph Sabatini and GOP County Chair Lawrence Garvey.
Though he was not in attendance, County Executive Ed Day, whose targeting of the Sheriff’s Department for job cuts in 2014 chilled his relationship with Falco, might also throw his support behind Vasquez.
A current Rockland County resident who works primarily in Orange County, Vasquez spent time as an artilleryman in the U.S. Army Reserves before he began his 23-year career in law enforcement. Since then he has served in a number of investigative and leadership positions in the NYPD including stints as a lieutenant commanding officer in the Detective Bureau, a sergeant in Internal Affairs, a special operations lieutenant for the Transit Bureau and the commanding officer of the Crime Prevention Section and Community Affairs Bureau.
Vasquez also has a long list of educational and academic titles, including a degree from the FBI National Academy, a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice from John Jay College and a position as adjunct professor at Rockland Community College, where he teaches criminal investigation and multicultural law enforcement.