Sheriff candidate calls for more compassion in law enforcement

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Candidate Jillian Hanlon at the NDNAACP town hall.

POUGHKEEPSIE – Democrat Jillian Hanlon, running for Dutchess County Sheriff on the Democratic and Working Families ballot lines, says more compassion is needed in law enforcement.  Hanlon is seeking to make history by becoming the first openly-transgender person in the country to hold the office of sheriff.

Hanlon began her career with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office as a man, known as TJ Hanlon, before transitioning to a woman in 2015.  Hanlon spent 24 years with the sheriff’s office before retiring in 2021.

Jillian Hanlon, Democratic candidate for Dutchess County Sheriff

Citing the need for more compassion and training, Hanlon said ,”Training needs to help officers realize that you are there to help someone in trouble – not shoot them in the back…you don’t pepper-spray peaceful protestors.”  Hanlon indicated that compassion helps to calm a person in need, reducing the risk to both the subject and the responding officers.

Hanlon worked as a corrections officer in the Dutchess County Jail before becoming a deputy with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office until her retirement.  “One of the most important things that all candidates are facing this year is questions on crime and people aren’t happy with crime and disorder,” Hanlon told Mid-Hudson News earlier this week before a criminal justice town hall gathering sponsored by the Northern Dutchess NAACP.

Focusing on treatment methods at the Dutchess County Jail, Hanlon said voters need to assess the quality of the criminals being produced when they are released.  “If we make somebody worse than when they came in, they’re going to be more likely to commit crimes when they are released,” said the former corrections officer.

Taking questions from nearly two dozen attendees at the gathering, Hanlon said the biggest issue at the county jail is the failure to address inmate needs.  “We need evidence-based treatment programs for the inmates,” she said. “Most of the inmates suffer from PTSD, and loud noises in the jail are startling them and triggering them into acting out.  If we were trauma-informed, we’d have some acoustical tiles installed.”  The sound-deadening devices, Hanlon implied, would help calm the inmates.

Hanlon took credit for helping to save money on the new jail that is currently under construction.  Hanlon said she helped save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on the cell doors for the new Justice and Transition Center, while also saving more than a million dollars in costs by purchasing kitchen equipment from the New York State bid list as opposed to general purchasing practices.

Hanlon is challenging acting Sheriff Kirk Imperati, a Republican.