BELFAST – Chief Deputy Jason Trundy of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office would love the opportunity to serve Waldo County as its next sheriff.

Recently he announced his run for the office currently held by Jeff Trafton, who will be retiring after eight years. The Republican Journal sat down with Trundy Jan. 6 to discuss his plans, if elected, and talk about his extensive career in the Sheriff’s Office.

In May of this year, Trundy will celebrate his 28th anniversary with the department. Born and raised in Belfast, he was self-employed for a number of years before starting at the Sheriff’s Office in 1994.

In his long law enforcement career, Trundy said, he has seen a lot of the same faces come back through the justice system time and time again. “If we can break that cycle, even on a small scale,” he said, “we can have a significant effect.”

He noted several key programs that have helped to keep the jail population down, reduce recidivism and support individuals reentering society. Other programs provide resources to divert people from incarceration.

On the corrections side, Trundy said, partnering with the District Attorney’s Office and Maine Pretrial Services has provided the court an opportunity to bail someone on a contract. Maine Pretrial offers supervision for individuals before trial, on deferred dispositions and alternative sentences. In many cases, he said, the root cause of someone’s criminal conduct is mental illness or substance use disorder, and Maine Pretrial can work to help people get the services they need.

Another beneficial collaboration, he said, has been with Volunteers of America at the Reentry Center, where VOA helps offenders transition back into the community. VOA provides resources to the Sheriff’s Office that probably no other county jail has in its complex, he said. The agency tailors programming to each individual and each person’s risk factors are identified — the root causes for their continued involvement with the criminal justice system.

The community liaison position, which began in 2020, has been a huge benefit for the Sheriff’s Office, Trundy said. The first community liaison position came from a partnership with Penobscot Community Health Care, which received a million-dollar grant. The program has been so successful at providing resources for people in need that the grant position was turned into a permanent position. Since then, a second, grant-funded liaison has been added.

When he started working with Health Equity Alliance and the Restorative Justice Project to create a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, the idea was to provide a tool for police to divert offenders who might be better served by a case manager than by going to jail.

If there is a victim, he said, they have to agree that the case can be deferred, and the offender also has to agree that help is what they want. Perpetrators of violent crimes and sex offenses are ineligible. The program is designed for offenders affected by substance abuse, mental illness and/or homelessness.

The program connects people to resources, “and if we connect them to the right services, they are not coming back to the system. That is the goal.”

“I would have loved to have had that (earlier in my career),” he said. “To be able to say, ‘I’ve got someone I can connect you to here at the office, a case manager, who can work with you and your child to connect you to the services that you need.’”

The Restorative Justice Project gives people an opportunity, if they are willing, to sit down with a conflict resolution team and work through an issue in a restorative way, he said. While he is a huge fan and supporter of restorative practices, he admits the program is not for everyone. “Not every victim is willing to let it be deferred,” he said.

Looking back on his career, Trundy said, when he was on patrol, one of his biggest frustrations was having nothing in his toolbelt to help people who needed something beyond the realm of enforcing the law. Conflict was at the core of a large number of these issues, he said. It could be neighbors arguing over property lines, a landlord and tenant dispute, or a husband and wife arguing over child care.

“But unless that conflict rises to the level where someone has committed a crime,” he said, “there is nothing in my law enforcement toolbelt, or there wasn’t 25 years ago, to really do much.

“From my perspective, in working with these other organizations to craft these positions, it was really about providing the deputy in the field with another tool to try and address these root cause problems that were coming up (and) driving these issues.”

Trundy has seen these programs work firsthand, for one participant after another, one life at a time, he said. They are “changing the fabric of our community, and helping us reach our ultimate goal of enhanced public safety.”

When people get the services they need and get on the right path, that has a ripple effect that is hard to quantify, he said. Another thing that you can never put your finger on is, “What did we prevent?” he said.

Trundy said he has been “incredibly fortunate” to work with Sheriff Jeff Trafton over the years, who has allowed him as chief deputy to work through and pursue these programs that are his passion. “I really appreciate that,” he said. “For me, I believe the work we are doing is halfway there. We are still in the grant funding piece for some of this and still need to develop these programs so they are a permanent fixture in our system.

“My goal is to continue to do the work we are doing now, continue collaborating with those organizations, and explore any way and every way that we can to make our community safer and reduce recidivism and increase the quality of life for everyone in this county.”

There is much more work to be done, he said. “I know there are more opportunities and I want to continue to work on finding those opportunities along the pipeline.”

If elected, Trundy said in a Facebook post, he intends to appoint current Patrol Lt. Matthew Curtis to the position of chief deputy. “Matt has served alongside me at the Sheriff’s Office for the past 25 years and is an indispensable member of the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

Trafton told The Journal he has been sheriff for two terms, or eight years, and plans to retire this year and not seek a third term. “I think he (Trundy) would do an outstanding job,” he said. “No one is more qualified.”

Trundy has held almost every position at the Sheriff’s Office, and has been successful in each, Trafton said.

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