Editorial: Tompkins has earned sheriff’s job

Sheriff Steve TompkinsSheriff Steve TompkinsLet there be no confusion: There is only one sheriff in Suffolk County. He is Steve Tompkins.

When former Sheriff Andrea Cabral left the job in 2012 to become the state’s Secretary of Public Safety, Tompkins, her longtime second-in-command, was appointed to fill her role by Gov. Deval Patrick. In an editorial in January 2013, we wrote that “We have every confidence that [Tompkins] will prove himself worthy to fill Cabral’s shoes.”

Tompkins came into the job with years of hands-on understanding of the system’s day-to-day operations. When Cabral was appointed to take over the department in 2002, Tompkins was her executive assistant and he helped her navigate the tricky work of assembling a new cadre of talent to run what was then a troubled department.

Cabral and her team brought a decade of stability to the county’s prison system and Tompkins was a full partner in that turnaround. Tompkins has delivered on his promise, overseeing a seamless transition and stepping up efforts to create vocational training programs to assist prisoners in starting a new life upon their release.

Tompkins has been endorsed by the full spectrum of political heavyweights in the city, from Mayor Marty Walsh and US Sen. Elizabeth Warren to state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and City Councillor Frank Baker. But, it was his endorsement by the corrections officers who work at the Suffolk County House of Correction that was most notable. Local 419, it must be noted,is typically at odds with the administration that oversees the prisons where its members work. In fact, no Suffolk County sheriff had ever won the group’s endorsement. But that changed earlier this summer when members of Local 419 announced a full-throated endorsement of Tompkins.

“From the time that Sheriff Tompkins came on board, he’s shown his support for us,” said 419 President Robert DeBole. “He introduced himself to everyone and he was appreciative of what it is that we do, and he took an interest in each person that he met. It was something we hadn’t seen before. He goes above and beyond and he showed a willingness to work with the union right away.”

DeBole added: “We know that we won’t always agree on everything, but as long as everyone works to move the agenda of the Department forward and that of Local 419, I think we’ll work well together.”

Tompkins’s ability to forge partnerships with the men and women who work in the jailhouses — as well as with the political heavyweights who he must turn to for funding and support — is a valuable skill set in our sheriff. He has also shown that he is accessible to the larger community and has sought ways to engage people in our neighborhoods who might not otherwise come into contact with his department.

He has hosted forums at Roxbury Community College aimed at creating a dialogue about improving re-entry programs. He frequently speaks publicly at forums to discuss ways to reform the criminal justice system and is a constant presence at civic associations and youth events around the neighborhoods.

Steve Tompkins has earned our support and is the best person to serve as Suffolk County’s sheriff moving forward. We are pleased to endorse his candidacy.
– Bill Forry