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GILES LOOKS BACK AS FUTURE CLOUDS NIAGARA SHERIFF TELLS ABOUT WEATHERING CHANGES IN LAW ENFORCEMENT

More than 30 years ago, Francis L. Giles never thought about becoming a police officer -- let alone running for a third four-year term as Niagara County sheriff.

The 51-year-old Republican announced earlier this month that he will run for another term in November.

A couple of days later came reports that an FBI investigation of Giles and his department, which came to light last June, was focusing on purchases of food, cleaning products and hardware for the county jail.

Since then, Giles has had no comment about his political future or the investigation. But in a recent interview, he recalled how he got into law enforcement.

"I just got out of the National Guard, and I wasn't working," he said. "I wanted to do something for the community. But it was because I needed a job that I ended up in the Sheriff's Department."

His father, a Niagara Falls city judge, was friends with then-Sheriff James K. Murphy and told him to go see Murphy about a job.

"I borrowed my father's car, and I drove to Lockport," he recalled. "I talked with Sheriff Murphy for 45 minutes. It was Nov. 16, 1962. He asked me how old I was and said I had to be 21 to work there. I told him I was 20, but my birthday was tomorrow. So he told me to start working on (the following) Monday."

"I fell in love with the work shortly thereafter," he added. "I'm very glad it came my way. I've seen a bit of everything -- births, deaths -- all sides. I've seen fatals, homicides and have been able to help a lot of people, which has been very gratifying."

Giles said he started working in the jail, then moved to communications and to the civil division for about four years.

In 1969 he became a detective with the Criminal Investigation Unit, then a senior investigator and finally an inspector in 1983 before being elected sheriff in 1986.

During his career, Giles said, he has seen law enforcement become a much more sophisticated profession and crime become much more violent. In the early years, he said, a high school diploma and six weeks of training were needed to become a deputy. Now an associate's degree in criminal justice and six months of criminal justice training are required.

Giles said police officers need more training because laws are changing every day and because officers need to be educated and able to deal with people in an intelligent way. He also said police officers are subject to public scrutiny and, by law, are required to act in a very precise manner in everything they do.

Weapons also have changed.

"We kept up in time with proper weapons, but it's a sad twist that we have to be in competition with the criminal element," Giles said.

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