LOCKPORT, NY (WKBW) — There were hugs and well-wishes for Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour Monday. It was his final day on the job, as he now sets out for retirement and to work in the private sector.
7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley sat down with Sheriff Voutour during his final hours in law enforcement.
“I had a simple motto every day I came in here. ‘do what you have to do to keep the people safe’ and that’s all I ever did,” Voutour declared.
Sheriff Jim Voutour is a big guy with a compassion for people.
He joined the office in 1993. He moved up through the ranks and was elected sheriff, serving the last 11 years. Voutour announced he his retirement plans in October, although his term doesn't end until 2020.
“And when I drive home today that all changes and that’s a hard switch to flip,” remarked Voutour.
Voutour says as an elected leader the voters have been his boss.
“But with that responsibility comes seven days a week , 24/7. That’s what we are required to do,” Voutour noted.
As Voutour sat at his cleaned-out desk for the last few hours of as leader, reflected on some of the most difficult times as sheriff. First recalling tragedies that involved one of his own team members.
In 2011, Niagara County Sheriff Deputy Allen Gerhardt was involved in a crash as he was trying to catch a hit and run driver.
“I still recall going into the trauma room,and the doctor asking me to hold a clip board and explain to Allen the doctor had to cut his legs off and I had to have Allen sign that,” Voutour remembered.
The sheriff also said he reached a low point when he arrived at the scene of an accident that involved two friends. One who died, the other had to be arrested for the crash.
“He died in my arms after I removed him from the car and there was also another friend, the driver and he had to be arrested in that crash,” recalled Voutour.
Then there were the many fatal incidents involving youth.
“There was another summer, where I think I told six sets of parents that their child had died in a car crash or died in some way and that was a summer I would like to forget,” Voutour reflected.
And it’s his own family, his wife and daughters, that Voutour says he's ready to give more time to.
“It’s been hard on them being the sheriff’s daughters. My wife has sacrifice tremendously. The late nights that I’m out, the calls in the middle of the night that wake her up,” Voutour said.
Voutour says he's a supporter of 'term limits' and believes it's time for fresh ideas.
“Kind of putting my money where my mouth is – maybe it’s time for me to.” Voutour stated.
Voutour brought innovation to the department. It of the first police agencies in the country to go on Facebook 11-years ago.
“And boy I took criticism from other chiefs and sheriffs – ‘what are you doing, why are you doing this’ and I said because the public wants accessibility to their police officers and their police department and you look now, there’s not a police department without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” Voutour said.
On a nearby shelf, it what will be his former office, was his Sheriff union form and bullet proof vest. There were also several law enforcement tools and his badge that will all be turned in at the end of his day.
Voutour says he's looking forward to becoming a consultant for a technology company dealing in law enforcement equipment.
Voutour says he’s proud that he worked to keep politics out of his office the last 11-years.
“I think there’s no place for politics in law enforcement. I’ve made republicans mad. I’ve mad conservatives mad. I’ve made independents mad. I made everybody mad, but I made a lot of them happy to,” Voutour remarked.
Niagara County Undersheriff, Michael Filicetti will take over as Voutour retires.