To the editor:
Although I have lived most of my life in Bristol County, I never paid much attention to elections for county offices. This year is different.
Paul Heroux, candidate for Bristol County Sheriff, is someone especially qualified to fill this position. He has a unique combination of interests, skills, and experience. In particular, Heroux has a master’s degree in criminology and has served in two jobs in criminal justice.
The record of Tom Hodgson, the Sheriff of Bristol County for 25 years, deserves close scrutiny. When introducing a voluntary chain gang program in 1999, Hodgson claimed it would build “self-esteem and confidence.” (Cape Cod Times 6/17/99) The program was criticized by Amnesty International as degrading and serving “no purpose other than to publicly demonstrate a ‘tough’ approach to criminal offenders.”
On the Hodgson campaign website, there’s an invitation to “Join the Hodgson Posse.” At first, this calls to mind the harmless westerns seen on black-and-white TV screens in the 1950’s. But “posse” has taken on a darker meaning.
Is Hodgson aware of the anti-semitic, white supremacist Posse Comitatus movement, dating back to 1969 and still present today? One of its wacko ideas is that the power of county sheriffs to interpret and enforce the law is supreme, superseding the authority of state and federal officials. Sheriffs in some parts of the U.S. now claim this authority to interfere with the voting process in their counties.
In 2006, Hodgson’s apparent role model, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, organized a posse of poorly trained, often armed volunteers to help enforce immigration law in Maricopa County, Arizona. (Phoenix New Times 9/11/17) This did not end well, as Arpaio was later ordered by a judge to cease using his posse in what amounted to racial profiling of Latinos.
Hodgson might deny that there is anything sinister in his use of the term “posse”, but it is troubling that he aligns himself with right wing sheriffs in other parts of the U.S. and with groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hodgson made repeated trips to Washington during the Trump presidency—appearing in uniform and using his position as our Sheriff to endorse Trump’s immigration policies.
Tom Hodgson’s conduct as Sheriff is unsatisfactory and his political alliances are cause for concern. It’s time for a change.
Charles Adler, Attleboro