Each week, we're asking each of the Pinellas County sheriff candidates a question that's important to you, the voter, so you can be informed come ballot time.
This week, we asked:
- What should be the Sheriff's Office's approach to consolidating with municipal police departments?
The sheriff’s approach when a city is considering to consolidate its police department with the sheriff’s office is one in which I have unique and extensive experience. When I previously served as your sheriff I merged six city police departments into the sheriff’s office. This was unprecedented, in that, no prior sheriff merged so many police departments into the sheriff’s office. For years Pinellas County led the state in this regard.
My approach has been to meet the city’s request for information and educate both the city officials and citizens as to the advantages and disadvantages of the merger. In every case except one the city officials voted for the merger. In Dunedin, the citizens voted three to one to contract their police services from the sheriff’s office. Those mergers of police services have saved local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
One of the key policy decisions that I made in these mergers was that I would hire all existing line officers as deputy sheriff’s so they would not lose their jobs.
Incidentally, I would not promise the city police union that I would not seek to consolidate their police departm in order to get that union’s political endorsement. To put the local police union’s wishes ahead of the city commission and citizens for the sole purpose of getting their endorsement is a gross abuse of the office of sheriff.
A city’s decision to turn all police services over to the sheriff belongs to the city council and/or the citizens. The decision is not for the sheriff or the police union, but when the city initiates the discussion the sheriff should be ready to inform the citizens what to expect.
I am proud of my record and my approach when a city considers consolidating its police with the sheriff.
The at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, July 17) at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater Octagon Arts Center, 2470 Nursery Rd.
The debate is free to attend, or you can watch Patch's live streaming coverage. It is sponsored by Patch, the and Bay News 9.
Rice on previous Patch Podiums: