Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo swore in Errol Toulon at the Suffolk County Sheriff inauguration.
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below.
Thank you very much. First to Suffolk County Community College, let's give them a round of applause and thank them for their hospitality. To Mr. Gasby, thank you very much for serving as the Master of Ceremony. To County Executive Steve Bellone, who is a good friend and is a great County Executive, and we've had many experiences and is a very thoughtful man. Whenever I show up to help with a snowstorm he always has an extra shovel for me. My shovel is always a little bigger than his, but I don't like to say anything. It is curious that both Dr. Toulon and Tim Sini served as Assistant Deputy County Executive for Public Safety. I guess no one wants to stay in that job, Steve. He said he loves when I come to Suffolk County. First question he asks when I call and I say I'm coming to Suffolk county, "bringing money?" It's not about love, my friends. It's not about love. Let's give him a round of applause, he's doing a great, great job.
Our new Sheriff, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon. Let's give him another round of applause. And his secret weapon, his wife Christina Toulon. I also would like to acknowledge Rich Schaffer who is the supervisor of the Town of Babylon and I know worked very hard on this campaign. If he called me one more time to help your campaign, I was going change my cell phone number. I just want you to know that, Sheriff. Rich Schaffer, let's give him a round of applause. And Tim Sini, our new DA, who's going to be a very integral partner in this effort. Congratulations, Mr. District Attorney.
Well it is a special day. It is an historic day as you have heard. We've reached a new level. Not since 1683, when they had the first Sheriff of Suffolk County, this Sheriff is different. And he's different in a number of ways. And he sets a new level in a number of ways. For me, the first new level he sets, the first precedent he sets, is he is the most qualified man to ever serve as Sheriff of Suffolk County.
He has the best qualifications to do the job. He comes from a family that was dedicated to criminal justice and to corrections. He's following in his father's footsteps. I can't imagine why anybody would want to do that. Must be some complex psychological thing going on. Freudian.
Actually I do know a little bit about that and I can tell you when a father, when a son follows in a father's footsteps it means he has the greatest respect for the avocation of his father. From the stories he heard at the kitchen table, for the stories he heard as a boy. And he has the greatest respect for the man who set that example and I would ask at this time Errol Toulon Sr. please stand so we can applaud you. Mr. Toulon I'm sure your son like myself only hope we can do the job half as well as our fathers did because you've done a magnificent job sir.
The corrections experience is integral to being a sheriff and Errol has that in volumes. 22 years in the New York City Corrections Department, Captain. He was literally the instructor at the Academy. Then he joined the County Executives Team, became familiar with Suffolk then he went back as Deputy Commission of New York City Correction Department. He has the experience and it will serve him well.
But as a County Executive pointed out there is another first that Dr. Toulon brings which is he is the first African American to be the Sheriff of Suffolk County. First African American to win county-wide besides the judicial election and that really means something. It says something about the people of Suffolk County, it says something about the progress of our society, it says something about acceptance. It says we're one step closer to Martin Luther King's dream by judging people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
And the timing couldn't be better as far as I'm concerned. The President of the United State made some remarks last night that I will not repeat. It's not usual that you can't repeat what the President of the United States says, but there are children in the room and it would disrespect my office as Governor. But anyone who believes that this country is about keeping people out doesn't understand what this country is all about. They have a short, short memory and they never really understood what made America great in the first place.
What made America great, because we were unique. We were not of one race, we were not of one religion. We formed a nation by saying we welcome all. Come here. No matter what race, what color, what creed, what income level, what education level, you come here and we'll give you opportunity and you can join us. And it worked extraordinarily well. Look around this room, look around the county, look around the state, we're all from different places. And nobody came here rich and powerful. If you were rich and powerful you stayed where you were. You didn't come here. People who came here were the poor, the huddled masses. It was Emma Lazarus's words on the Statue of Liberty. That's who came. And they came with the clothes on their back but a desire in their heart to do better, and the promise in this country was you could do better here. And that's everyone's story. My grandfather came, was a ditch digger. He called it a ditch digger because he didn't like to say he really dug the trenches for sewer pipes. How fitting, with what the President said, isn't it ironic? And he had a son who went on to become Governor of the State of New York, and his son became Governor of the State of New York, and that's the story of America. Over and over and over. Come here, poor, uneducated, but with a desire to work and improve and you can do it, and we will work with you to do it. That's America. It was summed up by our Founding Fathers in three words, e pluribus unum. E pluribus unum. Founding Fathers stitched it on the seal of the United States. It's on the flag that stands behind the President's desk. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Out of many, one. Look how brilliant they were. Let's remember who we are and where we came from and why we came and how far it has brought us. And today in Suffolk County it has brought us to the first African American Sheriff in the history of Suffolk County and that is progress.
Now I'm selfishly overjoyed by Sheriff Toulon's election because in government job one is public safety. Public safety comes first. Economic development, yes. Roads, bridges, yes. The Long Island Rail Road, yes. Any delays, Steve's in charge. All of those things are important. But number one is public safety. Keep me and my family safe. That's the number one role of government. And it's harder today than ever before. We have challenges that we haven't had before.
We have challenges that we haven't had before. This opioid epidemic, this is worse than crack, this is worse than anything we've seen. Actually the mortality rate has gone up higher than ever before; we're losing people we never lost. And this is a drug that does not discriminate. Suburban, urban, rural—it doesn't matter—white, black, rich, poor. And it's only getting worse, not just in New York but all across the country. The gang problem we have is more ferocious than ever. This MS-13, it's going to take all of us working together to stop them in their tracks and they have to be stopped in their tracks. We cannot let them grow, we can't let them intimidate, we can't allow that to fester.
Our corrections system itself needs reform. Over 70 percent of the people who are in our jails have never had a day in court; they're all waiting for trial, 70 percent. Why? Because if you can't post bail you sit in court—you sit in jail. Now bail can be set low, $250, $500, but if you don't have it, it's all the money in the world. So there's a lot for us to do. Threat of terrorism that can strike anywhere, any place, any time. We've seen it in New York City, two attacks in two months. Never had that frequency before. But it could be in Suffolk, as easy as it could be in Nassau, as easy as it could be in Manhattan. So we need top talent in law enforcement today, and we have it with Sheriff Toulon. I am proud and pleased to be able to swear him in, but more I'm proud and pleased to have him as a partner of the state and the county as together we pledge ourselves to keep the people of Suffolk County safe. Thank you very much. I would now ask Sheriff Toulon and Christina Toulon to come to take the oath of office.