Two weeks before the election for the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Fred Harran held a press conference to say he believes the county administration should provide more support to his office.
Harran, a Republican and 38-year law enforcement official, stood outside the Bucks County Justice Center on Thursday to speak to reporters about his views.
The sheriff, who took office in 2021, stated in an interview that he needs more support from the county commissioners, who control the purse strings for the row offices, as directed by state law.
According to the 2023 county budget, Harran’s agency is set to receive $8.9 million this year, a 12 percent increase over 2022. The sheriff’s office has the second largest budget among the row officers, aside from the district attorney’s office, which receives nearly $14 million.
Harran has requested additional deputies, which was approved, but he said the process to get the funding for the new deputies has been slow through the county finance office. He said the addition of new deputies has been spread out over several months.
Previously, Democratic Commissioner Chairperson Bob Harvie said the county would disperse the money to the sheriff’s office when the deputies are hired. He has stated the county has committed $1 million for the office.
The sheriff said additional deputies will help resolve more than 7,500 warrants and are needed to fight crime.
Speaking of how county government functions, Harran said he wants an improved process and more funding to replace aging vehicles in his office’s fleet and a solution to improve intake at the Bucks County Correctional Facility.
The sheriff said the county jail often does not accept people in custody with medical issues, and municipal police departments or the sheriff’s office have to transport that person to a hospital to get medical clearance. The process can take law enforcement off the street for hours at a time.
“The prison staff is great, and they have a hard job, but we get our stones broken if a prisoner isn’t in perfect health,” Harran said.
On a solution, Harran said an expanded medical unit could be added to the correctional facility to allow law enforcement to drop people in custody off at the jail and allow inmates to get a medical review there.
Incumbent Republican Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo and Bucks County Controller Pamela Van Blunk, a Republican, are candidates for the board. Harran has expressed his support for both, and they attended his press conference.
The Democratic candidates said they were not invited to the press conference.
Harran stated he respects Harvie and Democratic Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia, but he believes “they refuse to deal with the issues.”
“The sheriff noted he worked with Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia and the county on the co-responder program before he became sheriff. The program pairs social workers with police departments and has been hailed as a success.
Harran worked with the the Bucks County Salary Board, which is made up of Harvie, Ellis-Marseglia, DiGirolamo, and Van Blunk, to put a deputy as a school resource officer in a Central Bucks County high school in summer.
The commissioners have a limited role in policing, but both campaigns have focused on the issue. Law enforcement largely falls on the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, which is a seat held by a Republican; municipalities; and the state.
The Democratic and Republican campaigns have said they support law enforcement.
Former Sheriff Milt Warrell, a Democrat who switched recently to being a Republican, stood with Harran and stated he dealt with similar problems with a lack of support of the sheriff’s office. His administration served under both Democratic and Republican majorities.
In response to Harran’s comments, Harvie said the present administration has invested in public safety in the county.
On the matter of the jail, which is overseen by a bipartisan oversight board, Harvie said he rarely sees Harran at the meetings. Harran is a member of the oversight board.
The Democratic commissioner chairperson stated the correctional facility wants to be sure those coming into the facility are healthy enough to be there.
In response, Harran said Harvie, a former teacher, should consider “stay in your own lane” in regard to law enforcement.
“Why can’t we all get along?” Harran asked.