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Watertown native, retired Oregon detective announces bid for sheriff

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Republican John R. Bocciolatt expects he’ll get a lot of help from his many north country relatives as he begins his campaign for Jefferson County Sheriff.

During a Tuesday morning press conference, Mr. Bocciolatt made sure to mention his north country roots.

“I have 43 first cousins here and 43 in-law cousins,” he said, noting he plans to enlist their support during his campaign and if he gets elected next November.

About 70 family members, friends and supporters attended the press conference at Savory Downtown in the Best Western, 300 Washington St.

Mr. Bocciolatt, a native of the north country who spent the majority of his police career in Portland, Ore., told the standing-room-only crowd that he intends to restore public trust in the sheriff’s office following a string of scandals that have rocked the department.

Sheriff John P. Burns repeatedly has come under fire for allegations of misconduct within his department during the past year and a half.

Sheriff Burns, who has said that he does not intend to run for re-election, has lobbied Jefferson County legislators to expand the jail, contending it’s costly to send inmates out to jails in other counties.

Mr. Bocciolatt said he plans to examine ways to ease overcrowding at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building and work cooperatively with private citizens, nonprofit groups, the 10th Mountain Division and other agencies to provide law enforcement to the county.

Mr. Bocciolatt also said he would change the way the department handles drug cases by making sure all of his “team” would be recognized as drug investigators. Currently, the Metro-Jefferson Task Force specializes in drug investigations.

Mr. Bocciolatt grew up in Watertown and started his law enforcement career as a special investigator with the Jefferson County district attorney’s office. 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.

He served 28 years as a detective sergeant with the bureau, working as a homicide, narcotics and gang-unit detective as well as a hostage negotiator. But he always planned to return to Jefferson County and work in law enforcement, he said. After retiring from the Portland Bureau in 2005, he started his own private investigation and security consulting business before moving to Clayton.

“Little did I know it would take this long to get back here,” he said.

Earlier this week, 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.

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