Thomas M. Hodgson, a law enforcement and corrections professional with extensive management, marketing and business experience was appointed Sheriff of Bristol County, May 21, 1997 by Gov. William F. Weld and was sworn in officially June 2, 1997 by then Lt. Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci.
In 1994, Sheriff Hodgson, a former Maryland Police Lieutenant for Special Operations, joined the staff of the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and served as Deputy Superintendent of Investigations. He also served five years as a Councilor-at-Large on the New Bedford City Council.
Upon assuming the role of High Sheriff of Bristol County, Sheriff Hodgson immediately set out to implement his goals for corrections reform, public safety and raising the standards for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office to enhance the primary mission of care and custody of inmates. He instituted structured disciplines for the inmate population and expanded the Work Release programs to include graffiti removal. Several years ago Sheriff Hodgson gained international attention when he instituted the Tandem Work Crew (tethered), a strictly voluntary program for medium security inmates. While initially controversial, these initiatives have proven highly successful over the long term in providing valuable services to and saving money for the cities and towns of Bristol County. The Tandem Work Crews continue to work in communities throughout the County. He banned tobacco products for staff and inmates, removed televisions and weight-lifting equipment from cells, donating the equipment to police departments and the local Boys and Girls Club. These activities were replaced with programs affording educational opportunities, spiritual assistance and vocational aptitude. Sheriff Hodgson implemented a Regional Lock-up at the Ash Street facility for the Bristol County Police Departments in 1998.
Sheriff Hodgson has been successful in bringing together a number of Law Enforcement/Public Safety agencies through the establishment of a Law Enforcement Collaborative, consisting of Bristol County Police Chiefs, State Police and UMASS Dartmouth Police, to share intelligence and resources. The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office is a member of the SouthCoast Anti-Crime Team (SCAT) utilizing the combined resources of the Sheriff’s Office and Police Departments to control the proliferation of drugs and other criminal activity in the area. In support of these efforts the Sheriff has also established a Warrant Apprehension Unit, Drug Task Force, Gang Unit and has assigned staff to the federal departments of DEA, ICE, and FBI.
In 1998 the Sheriff went to the Justice Department in Washington D.C. to be briefed on the growing national concern regarding terrorist activities and weapons of mass destruction. Since then he has become a leader in Homeland Security issues and has brought together public safety officials from Local, State and Police, Fire Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), National Guard, Coast Guard, FBI, TSA, other federal agencies, EMS and hospital groups, along with stakeholders from the private sector to form the Bristol County Homeland Security Task Force with the mission of training and preparing Bristol County to have the ability to develop and implement a cohesive response to a critical incident. It has always been the Sheriff’s belief that Public Safety First Responder Groups can best serve the community when working in a collaborative effort. The Sheriff has been invited to address groups throughout the country on the subject of anti-terrorism. The Bristol County Homeland Security Task Force meets monthly and has coordinated several major training exercises throughout the County.
Sheriff Hodgson designed and purchased a state-of-the-art Mobile Command Unit (Incident Command Center) that contains a sophisticated communication platform and other equipment that is available to every community in the County. Incident Command Center training for Police, Fire and Public Safety agencies is on-going, as is planning, implementation, and after action reports for table top exercises for Bristol County cities and towns.
School Programs: Sheriff Hodgson believes that early childhood intervention is the key to reducing the high rate of recidivism. He therefore has aggressively sought grant funding and implemented several school and youth programs, all of which have proven to be highly successful. SLAM (Students Learning a Message) provides the opportunity for student classes to be brought in to the facility for a tour and a presentation by inmates. CHOICES – inmates are taken to schools around the County to speak with students about the importance of making good choices. SAFE TO LEARN – provides training to school department staff, parents and students on proactive and reactive responses to school incidents involving violence or hostage situations. School audits and risk assessment are also provided as part of the program. N.B. JUVENILE COURT – designed to help teenagers overcome drug addiction, provided financial support and a full time coordinator. School training programs include Bullying Programs for school staff, students and parents. The I-SAFE program introduces teachers, administrators and students to internet safety and the many dangers children may be exposed to in Cyber Space. The program has been expanded to include I-SHIELD training for law enforcement personnel, enhancing training opportunities for the I-SAFE program in all communities. BCSO K-9 Unit demonstrations are frequently provided for children at schools and public safety events throughout the county.
Senior Programs: Sheriff Hodgson’s commitment to public safety also includes initiatives for the Senior Community. He has successfully implemented twelve TRIAD programs in Bristol County, namely Easton, Attleboro, North Attleboro, Rehoboth, Mansfield, Swansea, Seekonk, Somerset, New Bedford, Taunton, Fall River and Dartmouth. TRIAD is a collaborative for senior citizens introduced by the National Sheriff’s Association involving the Sheriff’s Department, Police Department and Council on Aging. Also implemented by Sheriff Hodgson is the “R.U.O.K.” Program in which senior citizens sign on to be telephoned every morning as part of a monitoring/response system; PROJECT LIFESAVER, a new bracelet-tracking-device system for Alzheimer patients, as well as the IRIS SCANNING PROGRAM, the latest innovation in identification technology being used to identify lost or missing persons and children. Identity Theft, Crime Awarenes and Disaster Preparedness Seminars have been presented at Senior Centers throughout Bristol County.
Sheriff Hodgson initiated an employee accountability system based on similar programs studied by the Sheriff and his staff at Broward County, Florida and Rikers Island, New York. The Strategic Accountability Management System (SAMS) is a management accountability system designed to hold employees accountable for the work they are performing and the subsequent results intended to encourage teamwork and achieve higher levels of efficiency. Great strides have been made and the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded national Accreditation from the American Correctional Association for the Dartmouth House of Correction 2004 – 2007, the Women’s Center 2005 - 2008, and most recently, the Dartmouth House of Correction again for 2007 – 2010.
In 1998, Sheriff Hodgson signed a memorandum of agreement with Carlos Cesar, President of the Autonomous Regional Government of the Azores, Portugal.
Since that time, the Sheriff has worked with the Cesar Administration and now the administration of the newly elected President Vasco Cordeiro on developing reintegration programs for deportees returning to the Azores. Social workers from the Azores travelled to the United States to train with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office social worker staff and have since developed protocols that have provided necessary information to Azorean authorities to make the deported individuals’ return and transition safer and more successful for the individuals and citizens of the Azores.
For the past three years, Sheriff Hodgson, through the generous support of local business owners, has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for deportees living on the islands of Sao Miguel and Terceira. Children living in orphanages have also been treated to separate Thanksgiving dinners during the same time period.
Several crime prevention and personal safety programs have been introduced to residents in various villages, as well as programs targeting the needs of the elderly.
The Sheriff, working in collaboration with the Azorean Government and representatives of the University of the Azores, has integrated student volunteerism, targeting the needs of children and the elderly. Sheriff Hodgson was able through the generosity of local businesses in Bristol County to purchase a transportation van for the students to travel to various villages to conduct volunteer efforts.
Most recently, Sheriff Hodgson has been actively involved in supporting efforts to prevent force reduction at the United States Airbase in Terceira, Azores, meeting with members of Congress in Washington, D.C. to discuss options for continued full service operations and other options.
Sheriff Hodgson continues to remain actively involved with other sheriffs throughout the United States to call for careful and thoughtful immigration reform with an initial emphasis on securing our borders and points of entry.
Sheriff Hodgson and his wife Jo-Anne reside in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
County Sheriff's Office
400 Faunce Corner Road
North Dartmouth, MA 02747
Tel: (508) 995-1311