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Bocciolatt to run for Jefferson County sheriff as Republican


The investigation ends and the campaign begins.

John R. Bocciolatt, a native of the north country who spent the majority of his police career in Portland, Ore., is expected to announce today he is running as a Republican for Jefferson County sheriff in next year’s election.

Mr. Bocciolatt (pronounced bush-a-lot) said he was considering running in August but needed to conduct an investigation to see whether it would be a good fit. Apparently the results were favorable.

Mr. Bocciolatt is scheduled to make his announcement at 10 a.m. at Savory Downtown in the Best Western, 300 Washington St.

“I got into law enforcement to help people and to be of service. And now that I have experience, education and training ... I was planning to retire here, and I’d like to be back in law enforcement. I miss it and I want to be back in it,” Mr. Bocciolatt said. “Being here and being in law enforcement is the best of both worlds.”

Formerly a detective sergeant with the Portland Police Bureau, Mr. Bocciolatt retired in 2005 and started his own private investigation and security consulting business before moving to Clayton.

Mr. Bocciolatt holds a bachelor’s degree in education from SUNY Brockport and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Portland.

He grew up in Watertown and started his law enforcement career as a special investigator with the Jefferson County district attorney’s office. His grandfather, Harold “Nifty” O’Brien, was a police officer in Watertown.

Hiring freezes in the state led him to apply to police jobs throughout the country, and the Portland Police Bureau was the first department that sent him an offer, Mr. Bocciolatt said.

Mr. Bocciolatt served 28 years with the Bureau, working as a homicide, narcotics and gang-unit detective as well as a hostage negotiator. Several of the cases on which he worked were considered high-profile, including two serial murder cases and a hostage situation in 1996 that attracted national media attention.

He also worked for a time in the bureau’s Personnel Division, assisting in the hiring and termination of police officers, earning a letter of commendation from the police chief for his skill in investigating difficult cases involving equal opportunity laws.

In 1996, he received honorable mention from the National Association of Police Organizations as a “Top Cop.” He was nominated by a federal Drug Enforcement Agency special agent for his 1995 investigation of a criminal organization that made and sold methamphetamine.

According to a copy of his announcement speech, Mr. Bocciolatt’s initial goals will be to create proactive enforcement teams that will focus on drug interdiction, traffic and follow-up investigations; to institute a professional standards unit to restore community trust, and to join with community partners in exploring solutions and options to improve or resolve issues such as domestic violence, jail overcrowding and airport staffing.

Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns has come under fire repeatedly for allegations of misconduct within his department over the past year and a half. He did not respond to a request for comment. In previous interviews he has indicated he plans to retire at the end of his term next year.

Mr. Bocciolatt still has some work to do before he secures the endorsement of the Republican Party, Jefferson County Republican Committee Chairman Donald G.M. Coon III said.

But he is a welcome addition to the race.

“We welcome him to the race and we’re glad to have him aboard. He’s got great experience and a good story and I’m sure he’ll do well,” Mr. Coon said.

Mr. Bocciolatt will have to sell committee members on his ability to win the race, according to Mr. Coon. For now, he is the only Republican candidate.

“Nobody else has talked to me about it yet,” Mr. Coon said.

“We’ve had two very solid conversations and I certainly feel that with his law enforcement background, it warrants the opportunity to run for sheriff,” Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown, said. “It’s early in the game but then again it’s never too early in politics to get your name out there and be identified.”

Jefferson County Democratic Committee Chairman Ronald H. Cole said at least four people have indicated an interest in running for the office on the Democratic ticket.

“I have interviewed a couple of people and one I consider very strong,” Mr. Cole said.

Mr. Cole said the party will have a better indication who will run after Jan. 1.

Mr. Cole raised concerns that because Mr. Bocciolatt is not a New York state police officer, he would have too steep a learning curve to be effective immediately as sheriff.

Mr. Bocciolatt said that Oregon state law was based on laws in New York and Illinois and that while there are differences, it would not be difficult to learn the new system.

“I’ll be doing my homework on that,” he said.

According to the New York State Sheriff’s Association, candidates for sheriff must be 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen and a resident in the same county as the office for which they are running.

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