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After short-lived run for state Senate, Craig Apple refocuses on being Albany County Sheriff

 Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple at MHHS in Menands, NY
Dave Lucas
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple at MHHS in Menands, NY

After cutting short his bid for state Senate, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says he is focused on his current job.

Apple has been Sheriff since 2011. The Democrat has launched initiatives ranging from partnering with Albany Law School on a new strategy to prevent people from returning to jail, to transforming a cell block in an empty wing of the county jail into transitional housing.

Apple spoke with WAMC last week at the Mohawk Hudson Human Society in Menands, where he swore in four staff members as peace officers with powers including the ability to make arrests.

“We were really happy when they called and wanted to know how to go about getting peace officer training," said Apple. "We're like,’ your timing is impeccable, impeccable because we have a training institute and we'd love to have you.’ So they came out, they blended in with our law enforcement deputies, and some of our correction officer training and it was a success. So we're looking forward to doing more in the future.”

After the May supermarket shooting in Buffalo and the massacre of schoolchildren in Texas, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul ordered counties to develop a plan to address violent domestic terrorism. The Sheriff’s Office immediately began working with Albany County legislators toward creating a draft.

"We have a law enforcement meeting coming up, I believe on maybe the 20th," said Apple. "And so what we're trying to do is a much larger initiative than just put another policy in place. We want to actually have community engagement. So I can't get into depth on it, it wouldn't be fair to all the all the stakeholders in it, but we'll have some good announcements in the next couple of weeks.”

The draft is to be presented to the legislature in October.

An uptick in gun violence over the last two years sees Apple’s deputies continuing to supplement Albany city police in street patrols.

"We're still out and about in the city of Albany no plans on exiting anytime soon,” Apple said.

Apple says his department will keep a watchful eye over the 78th Annual Punkintown Fair, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Voorheesville.

“That's kind of one of our home bases," said Apple. "Right there. We have a station a few miles away. So we do a lot of security functions, you know, roam around, keep people safe. Listen, we know that we're right now with any mass gathering, people are nervous. So we just want to have a presence there to make sure that, listen, we're here, dogs are here. We're gonna keep you safe.”

Apple lauded the recent launch of a statewide health and wellness program for police officers, sheriff's deputies and emergency responders.

“FirstNet with AT&T rolled that out, they gave us a grant to help first responders," said Apple. "So what we're doing is, we always worry about the efficiency of responding and having a high level of efficiency, taking care of our constituents. But many times we forget about the people that are responding to those. And every time you go to one of those calls, as horrific as it may be, they leave with a little piece of that tucked away. And if you don't do something to take care of the health and wellness of our officers, it's not going to do anybody any good. And that's how you end up getting more complaints from police officers, rudeness, whatever the case may be, because many times they're undernourished, they're overworked, they're exhausted, they got burnout. So we want to put a greater emphasis on the men and women that are responding to keep you safe. We want to make sure that they're safe as well.”

Also in May, Apple announced a brief run for the 43rd district Senate seat, but withdrew two weeks later. Although Apple gained statewide attention last year by bringing sexual misconduct charges against former Governor Andrew Cuomo — which were soon dismissed — Apple wrote on his website he "never had aspirations for higher office," and "tried to convince" himself that he was taking a step in the right direction. He couldn't.

"It kind of came down to a family decision and an impact decision," Apple said. "Where can you have the greatest impact? That place, they're bogged down up there, nothing's happening up there, except for knee jerk legislation. And honestly, I didn't want to be part of that, you know, I can have a great impact on our community right here. I enjoy it. I like it. And you know, and I can decide, you know, when I've had enough, I'll move on and try something else, but it just wasn't the time. “

With the idea of a Senate run behind him, Apple says his focus is on the department's needs.

"We're almost at critical mass here. As far as recruiting and retention. People aren't signing up," Apple said. "I had a correction officer exam, I've got 30 people signed up. The Deputy Sheriff exam, I've got 75, I normally have hundreds. Now of those 75, some people take a test just to take the test, see how they'll do on it. Some people may be overweight, some people may not be able to get through the psychological. So that 75 in actuality, it's probably more like 30 people. So we need to make sure our ranks are filled. We need to have a bench. Every executive in a public safety agency wants to have 33,33,33, right? You want to have some rookies, you want to have some, you know, middle linebackers in there. And then of course, you want to have some veterans with institutional knowledge. There's no one coming up. There's no bench, we got to build that bench."

Apple says staffing levels are holding steady right now. He is encouraging people interested in law enforcement to contact his office and take the test.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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