Former state trooper running for Cortland County sheriff

CORTLAND, N.Y. – In his more than two decade-long tenure working for the New York State Police, Rich Berry has chased down criminals, aided victims of major crimes and testified in more than a dozen murder cases.

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But Berry, who hung up his state trooper’s uniform last month at the state police barracks in Homer, believes he has more work to do.

The newly retired officer has his sights set on the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, which will be under new leadership in 2016 after Sheriff Lee Price announced he would not seek re-election.

Aside from police work, Berry has spent most of his life coaching sports leagues–including hockey, football and baseball–and he’s quick to use a sports analogy when discussing the need for a change in leadership at the sheriff’s department.

“When things are not going the way you want them to go, what happens in sports? They typically change the coach, go through a trial period and things start getting better,” he says.

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Rich Berry with his wife, Rhonda, in 1994, shortly after becoming a state trooper (photo provided)

Berry’s decision to enter the race comes as the sheriff’s department looks to county lawmakers to approve a $38.5 million project to build a new Cortland County jail.

He says there is probably a need for a new jail, but is hesitant about the price tag.

“I understand the facility is small,” he says. “Every jail is overcrowded at this point. Something has got to change in the way we do things, not only here but across the country.”

Part of what inspired him to run for office, he says, was the negative media attention surrounding law enforcement in recent years.

“You sit there and watch news report after news report about how bad the police are,” Berry said. “That has to change.”

Berry is running as a conservative against Cortland County Undersheriff Herb Barnhart and Mark Helms, chief of police for the village of Homer.

He has received an endorsement from the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers.

The League of Women Voters of Cortland County plans to hold a forum between the three candidates. A date has not been announced.

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