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SHERIFF'S RACE: Two Talk About Overtime Cuts; One Doesn't Talk At All

George "Bob" Armstrong, John McMenamin are challenging incumbent WIlliam Polhemus for sheriff's post. Polhemus declined to comment

The race for the Ocean County Sheriff's position includes three candidates this year, and two of them are talking about cutting overtime.

Only Republican William C. Polhemus, 84, who is seeking his 10th three-year term as sheriff, declined to talk at all.

Polhemus did not respond to emails and phone calls from Patch reporters for a pre-election interview. An attempt to see him at his office in the Justice Complex on Thursday was turned down, with a secretary relaying, "Thank you for taking the time to stop by, but he's not interested."

He is being challenged by Democrat George "Bob" Armstrong, 68, and independent John McMenamin.

Armstrong and McMenamin, both reached by phone, said the amount of overtime being paid to employees of the sheriff's department and the jail is excessive and needs to be brought under control.

Armstrong believes the way to do that is to merge the Ocean County Jail and Sheriff's departments under the sheriff, as they had been prior to the mid-1980s, he said.

"We need to get the jail back under the sheriff," Armstrong said. "It was there for 100 years, and it worked fine then."

In merging the two departments, he said, officers would have to be crosstrained so that corrections personnel could operate as sheriff's officers and sheriff's officers could work in the jail, a process that Armstrong said should not be difficult "as each is only missing a couple of courses that the other has taken." Crosstraining would allow the sheriff to move personnel around to fill in when officers are ill, saving overtime costs.

"The county spent $4 million in overtime between corrections and the sheriff's department in 2011," Armstrong said. "This (merging the departments) would help us knock that down."

McMenamin, of Surf City, the former Stafford Township mayor, harshly criticizes the amount of overtime paid to employees of the sheriff's department.

"The Sheriff's Department is out of control, with multiple employees making over $50,000 a year in overtime alone," McMenamin says on his campaign website. "Operations have to be examined and streamlined for efficiency and effectiveness. Officer safety is paramount; officers and emergency 911 dispatchers need improved education and training standards and not just the basic minimal requirements." He said he would like to see a countywide smartphone alert system that notifies residents immediately of a situation, such as an Amber Alert or a shooting in a major public area, to help prevent further victims in some situations and to help solve crimes more quickly.

Armstrong, who has a bachelor's degree in accounting from Fairleigh Dickinson and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Richard Stockton College, spent more than 40 years in law enforcement, in the Air Force, the FBI and the IRS. He was recalled to active duty with the Air Force after 9-11 and worked on homeland security and antiterrorism issues, according to his campaign website.

He said he would like to see more involvement from the sheriff's office in community policing, with sheriff's officers assisting in towns where there's a need, such as in Lakewood, to assist with the issues of gangs and drugs, and in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park in the summer, during the heavy tourist season.

"When you talk to them (local police chiefs) one-on-one, they say, 'Boy, I could sure use the help,' " Armstrong said.

McMenamin, who has a master's degree in administrative services from Fairleigh Dickinson, was a patrol division leader in the Stafford Police Department and his campaign website cites a long list of extra instruction and training he received over the course of his career. He also was mayor of Stafford.

"With being in a supervisor's role in police department I have knowledge of every aspect of the job," McMenamin said by phone, adding that he believes the diversity of that knowledge makes him well-suited to serve as sheriff.

McMenamin believes there should be term limits and an age requirement for the sheriff's position, he said. He is running as an independent "because I don't think the sheriff's position should be beholden to a specific party."

Polhemus has served as sheriff since he was first elected to the position in 1985. He was the police chief in Seaside Heights prior to that and served in the Seaside Heights police department for 35 years. He is married.

Armstrong is married and has two children and six grandchildren.

McMenamin provided no information on his family.

Note: Comments on this article have been disabled to ensure the candidates' statements speak for themselves and readers can decide, without additional, anonymous commentary, their view on those running for office.

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