The Democratic candidate running for Ocean County sheriff this year says issues, not age, will be the focus of his campaign.
George "Bob" Armstrong, 68, is challenging 83-year-old William L. Polhemus for the three-year sheriff's term in November. He unveiled his platform on the steps of the Ocean County Courthouse Monday afternoon.
He doesn't plan to make an issue out of Polhemus' age.
"That's up to the voters to decide," Armstrong said in an interview this morning.
"Even if he was only 60 years old, it's been way too long," he added. "It's just outrageous for one person to be there for 27 years."
Armstrong said his 40-year career in law enforcement will benefit the Sheriff's Department and the residents of Ocean County.
He has served as a Special Agent with U.S. Army Intelligence, the FBI and the U.S. Treasury. He retired as a Lt. Colonel with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations after 32 years of service. He also served as a state investigator/detective with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and as a special agent with the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation.
Armstrong proposes putting the Corrections Department back under the supervision of the Ocean County Sheriff, a move he says would cut down on overtime and put more officers on the street.
"If Corrections was combined, you'd have more bodies to move around," he said.
The Ocean County Sheriff supervised the Corrections Department for more than 100 years in the past.
But that changed more than 25 years ago, when Board of Freeholders reversed course. The board passes a resolution that separated both departments and appointed Theodore J. Hutler Jr. as jail warden to oversee the Corrections Department, Armstrong said.
It would take the cooperation of the Board of Freeholders to make the change, he said.
"It's going to be tough," Armstrong said. "It's a challenge I'd like to take on."
The combined overtime budget for the Sheriff's Office and Corrections Department tallied over $4 million in 2011, compared to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, which spent $400,000 in overtime, he said.
"They (Prosecutor's Office) are the only ones conducting crime investigations and they probably have 70 investigators," Armstrong said.
Almost half of the Ocean County Sheriff's Department officers — who are certified police officers anywhere in the county — make over $100,000, Armstrong said.
That's an untapped source of law enforcement power that could be put to better use than manning metal detector stations at the Ocean County Courthouse and the Justice Complex and serving warrants , he said.
"They guard the doors, they serve papers," Armstrong said. "These guys can enforce the law throughout Ocean County. We have this big source that's not being used."
He agrees that armed law enforcement officers are needed at certain areas in the courthouse. But security personnel could be put in place in some areas, freeing up sheriff's officers for more substantial duties, he said.
Armstrong proposes putting more sheriff's officers back on the street to help local police departments, which are often understaffed and dealing with gang and drug-related crime in their communities.
"The young guys are looking to get involved," he said. "The old-timers, who are making a lot of money, they are happy."
Armstrong said that if elected, he would meet with each police chief in Ocean County to determine if and where sheriff's officers could assist their departments.
"I propose to sit down with the Ocean County chiefs and work together as a team, to put an end to the past 27-year history that discouraged the Ocean County Sheriff's officers from engaging in shared community policing in our local communities"," he said.
Armstrong said he will push for debates with Polhemus during the campaign. He said he never saw Polhemus once at any candidates' nights in the 2009 race, when he ran unsuccessfully against the sheriff.
"I'd be sitting up there by myself," he said. "it was sort of a joke that Polhemus wasn't there. He just takes it for granted."
has served as Ocean County Sheriff since 1985. Prior to that, he was police chief of the Seaside Heights Police Department and served 35 years in the department.
"The sheriff to my knowledge has been running a good operation over there," Ocean County Republican Chairman George R. Gilmore said recently. "The sheriff has said that he wants to run."
When asked if he thought was up to another term, Gilmore replied, "I see no impediment to his running and winning."