When New York native Fred Harran joined the Bensalem Township Police Department in April 1987 as a patrol officer – his first “real job” out of college – it was supposed to be for only a short span of time.
However, those months turned into years, and the years turned into decades. Now, after 34 years with the department, including 15 as the director of public safety, Harran is gearing up for the next step in his career that will impact not only Bensalem residents, but Bucks County as a whole.
On the recent Election Day, held Tuesday, Nov. 2, Harran was the Republican candidate for county sheriff. The final results saw him garner over 52 percent of the votes against Democratic opponent Mark E. Lomax, a retired Pennsylvania State Police director and current Warrington Township supervisor, who was endorsed by the Bucks County Democratic Committee over incumbent Sheriff Milt Warrell.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Harran told The Times of his win. “I just feel very glad that I got the amount of votes I did in Bucks County. I’m very appreciative of the voters to have the confidence in me to run the Bucks County sheriff’s office. It’s been very touching. A lot of people joked that they weren’t going to vote for me so that I stayed in Bensalem.”
This was Harran’s first time running in an election. After 34 years with the township, he felt it was time to branch out and utilize his experience to improve the criminal justice system on a county level in conjunction with all of the police departments.
“Being the sheriff in Bucks County, I can bring a lot of the initiatives that I’ve done in Bensalem,” he said. “I look forward to taking what I learned and expanding on it, not for just the people of Bensalem anymore, but people of the entire county.”
One example is the Bensalem Police Assisting in Recovery program, which Harran hopes to implement throughout Bucks.
BPAIR allows any resident struggling with substance abuse to walk into the police station, 24/7, and ask for help. They’re paired with a volunteer “Navigator,” who accompanies them to a nearby treatment center for an assessment. Transportation is provided from the police department to the facility. For Bensalem residents, the police department partnered with treatment facility Gaudenzia Inc., which has drug and alcohol professionals on-hand to assess BPAIR participants.
Another initiative that Harran wants to see go countywide is the Co-Responder Program, which launched as a pilot in Bensalem in December 2020. A two-person mobile social worker team (Rachel Agosto and Walter Bynum) were embedded in the Bensalem Township Police Department, partnering with law enforcement and serving as a liaison in addressing the social service needs of individuals contacting emergency services.
This program has allowed for the immediate response to crisis situations; the ability for individuals with substance use issues to be connected to treatment rather than incarcerated; and the support of those in mental distress so that they avoid acting on suicidal thoughts. The Co-Responder team follows individuals for up to 60 days to ensure connections have been made to address social service needs.
Additionally, Harran shared that he’s working on a number of projects with the office of Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub (who won re-election on Nov. 2 against Democratic opponent Antonetta Stancu) that would help witnesses and victims of crime.
“I want to really expand the capabilities of the sheriff’s office. I look forward to getting them state accredited again and bring national accreditation,” Harran said. “We also have an incredible group of row officers that won this election that are not just elected officials. They have become my friends. I can’t wait to work with them. We’re going to work as a team to bring the best service possible to Bucks County, not working individually as separate offices, but working as one cohesive unit. I’m excited for that.”
Harran’s 4-year term as sheriff officially begins in January 2022. It’s a bittersweet transition for Harran, who described the Bensalem community as “amazing.” But he can’t wait to bring his thinking “outside the box” approach to this vital role.
“The sheriff’s office is a huge part of the criminal justice system here in Bucks County. In order for the system to work, every spoke on the wheel has to be tight so the wheel will turn well,” he said. “I want to make sure the spoke is as tight as possible, we are doing our part and beyond to ensure that crime is held at bay in Bucks County, and the criminal justice system works.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org