The race for Bucks County sheriff is as competitive as ever as the opioid epidemic looms overhead.
Democrat Milt Warrell, a business owner and police officer from Falls Township, is set to face off in the ballot box Tuesday against incumbent Republican Edward “Duke” Donnelly, a Northampton resident who has decades of law enforcement experience.
In Bucks County, the elected sheriff’s office handles civil process, prisoner transports, certain arrest warrants, sheriff sales and courtroom security. Statewide, the sheriff and deputies are trained law enforcement officials, but are limited from conducting criminal investigations or making arrests for crimes that they did not witness.
Warrell, a retired Upper Southampton police officer who works as a part-time officer in Langhorne Manor Borough, told LevittownNow.com that he would revamp the sheriff’s office and push out a new program to help combat the opioid crisis if elected. Warrell also operates J&M Warrell Inc., a plumbing contracting business.
Donnelly said he plans to keep the department moving forward and improving processes already in place, including updating a computer system.
During his campaign, Warrell has laid out a multi-layered plan to tackle the opioid crisis and proposed a mobile drug pickup program. He said the department would be proactive to help cut down on overdose deaths.
“Just by being proactive, by going out into the community and saying ‘before those prescription painkillers fall into the wrong hands – be it a loved one or a stranger – let the Bucks County Sheriff’s Department properly and safely dispose of them no questions asked,’ we could reduce the risks of overdose and death associated with addiction,” he said.
Citing limitations by state law and previous legal cases, Donnelly, a former Philadelphia police captain and Lower Southampton police chief, said his office would continue working with the district attorney’s office to combat drugs.
The incumbent said his department is well-led and that he takes an active role in its operations.
Warrell had a different view and said criminal incidents involving deputies over the years and other issues have shown a problem with the leadership.
“Those guys get no respect and that starts at the top,” Warrell said. “I want to bring that back to the department.”
If elected, Warrell said he would add a free firearms training course supported by the NRA for gun owners in the county, provide outreach programs for seniors and add mental health and wellness programs.
In recent elections, Donnelly’s opponents have all mentioned the fact his name is pasted on the side of marked sheriff’s office vehicles that spread out all over Bucks County.
The sheriff, who oversaw the department’s accreditation, said his name is on all marked vehicles to let the people know who is the sheriff. Twelve years ago, he decided to add his name so residents knew who to call if they had a problem or had a complaint about a deputy.
However, Warrell said the move was “pompous and arrogant.” He added he did not feel putting the sheriff’s name on taxpayer-funded vehicles was an appropriate use of resources.
Several Bucks County political insiders have said the race for sheriff is one of the more competitive county-level races.