Warren Gosson of Edgartown has an educational background in criminal justice. He was an Oak Bluffs police officer from 1979 until his retirement in 2005. Mr. Gosson rose to the rank of detective and served as the department’s police prosecutor assigned to the court.
Please tell us why you decided to challenge the incumbent sheriff?
I feel that the sheriff’s department needs to transition to a proactive “community approach” style of management. The sheriff’s department should mirror the services it provides to the current needs of the Island. Moreover, the sheriff’s department should redefine its goals to the ever-changing “pulse” of the Island, to enhance the safety of our community.
Currently, the department does not have a mission statement to guide the agency. I will provide a mission statement, part of which will be: “to improve the quality of life in Dukes County, and to hold ourselves accountable to the public.”
Please describe what you believe are your qualifications to supervise the sheriff’s department budget and the jail/house of correction?
Basic accounting practices is the essence of the sheriff’s department budget. The budget of the sheriff’s department and all property would be audited upon request, with a change of seat. Currently, the budget is conducted in a basic line item format and would not need any changes.
In regards to supervising the department, it is important to know that as with all professions, education is the root of being successful, along with experience in the field. I have both of these qualifications, in the criminal justice field.
However, when departmental positions are created or vacated, it is important to promote based upon the individual merits of the applicant. Nothing is more demoralizing to any agency [than] when qualified candidates are overlooked because of the usual political practice of favoritism, nepotism, and cronyism.
Nantucket sends convicted felons to the Barnstable House of Correction, which appears to have space enough to accommodate island prisoners. Comment on the option of using the current Dukes County facility as a central lock-up and jail, but sending people convicted and sentenced to serve time in a house of correction to the Barnstable facility, the way Nantucket does?
I spoke with Barnstable County sheriff, James Cummings. It is his understanding that the main distinction between Dukes and Nantucket is, Nantucket does not have a House of Correction and Dukes County does. At this moment Barnstable County has room to house our inmates. However, for a longterm solution, it is not feasible, as Barnstable County inmate population fluctuates.
The Airport Master Plan, completed in 2002, includes a proposal to construct a new 79-bed county jail/house of correction to be built on airport property, to house male and female prisoners serving 2.5 years or less.
I support a new jail/house of correction facility on airport property. My concern is the proposed size, I feel that this may introduce more than our current court-ordered inmates to our Island. In regards to including female inmate housing, I say yes. It is important as part of the rehabilitation process.
Some high-profile prisoners have been sentenced to the Dukes House of Correction. These include the brother of Charles Stuart, a pedophile priest, and a Saudi prince. The public thinks the Dukes County House of Correction is an easy place to serve a sentence, so offenders want to serve their time here. Please comment on that perception.
The Dukes County House of Correction is a facility that houses inmates that have been sentenced to serve up to two and a half years. In some ways, it is easier time, as it is not a prison, which houses more violent offenders beyond the two and a half years. However, what is not easy is that no matter where the inmate is sentenced, the most significant punishment is loss of freedom.
Island police say they are concerned that dangerous felons have been introduced to the Vineyard community through the Dukes house of correction. There have been several cases in which felons have requested that they serve their sentences on the Vineyard. Please comment on the extent to which the sheriff has control over prisoner assignments.
If an inmate is sentenced to the Dukes County House of Correction by an off-Island judge, it is the duty of the sheriff to follow the court order and house the inmate. The sheriff can file an injunction with the court contesting the sentence. However, there is not one reversal known to the professionals in this field.
Moreover, to protect our community, I would consult with local justices, to sentence dangerous felons convicted for crimes in our community, to another house of correction. Why? Many of our dangerous felons have no ties to our community.
In general, they are drug dealers arrested for distributing drugs in our community. Their primary homes are on the mainland. Most have extensive criminal records, such as, guns, drugs, etc. In court, they will plead out, to be sentenced to House of Correction time versus going to trial and getting sentenced in a state prison, which is hard time.
Once in our House of Correction, these felons are making connections for future or current drug sales. It is common that criminal associates from the mainland will visit this inmate. They are likely to continue drug trafficking and dealing drugs to our addictive population with information from the incarcerated inmate.
I pledge to you that I will get these individuals transferred off the Island with cooperation from mainland sheriffs.
Please describe current programs you would change or eliminate and new ones you would introduce. And discuss the differences in the sheriff’s job since the state takeover of the department.
I have several new programs to implement, in addressing the needs of our community.
The present process of doing criminal background checks on all school staff is limited to CORI. (Criminal Offender Record Information) This detects only a crime committed in Massachusetts. I will immediately offer access to the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) to the superintendent of schools.
As part of the preventive approach, I would establish an outreach program addressing our communities’ number one need, addiction. This program would be open to all residents of our Island, not limited to the addictive individual. It will provide instruction on what is addiction, in addition to intervention, rehabilitation, and the skills needed for recovery, this in partnership with private and public licensed clinicians, along with our medical community.
Institute an Island‑based K‑9 unit trained in tracking and other methods of detection. This, in support of police agencies with search and rescue operations, is a useful tool in apprehending fleeing felons, such as recent home invasions, arson attempts, burglaries and peeping Toms. Currently, there is not a K‑9 unit on‑Island and evidence is generally lost or destroyed during the passing hours, waiting for a mainland K‑9 team.
Create a bureau of criminal Investigation, to assist all police agencies in the field of crime scene investigation. Forensic specialists.