Many ask about what we plan to change. It is very difficult to squeeze it all into a Website Page. I wanted to get out a list of some of the core changes.
What Positive Change Looks Like
Body 1 Cameras
Now more than ever body cameras are an essential tool for law enforcement. They promote transparency, build public trust, protect deputies, and allows for immediate action to address issues that may arise.
FISCAL TRANSPARENCY AND BUDGET CONTROL:
For years the current Sheriff has battled with Hernando County Commissioners regarding requested increases to his budget. Including Lawsuits filed, an appeal to the Governor and an order from the Board of County Commissioners for the Sheriff to turn over 2.2 Million dollars in revenue that was not turned over as required by state statute. Trust must be re-established to have the Board and Sheriff working together to find solutions to fiscal challenges.
SAFETY FOR OUR MOST VULNERABLE:
We will Implement a bracelet based tracking program to assist in the search and rescue for residents who have been diagnosed with cognitive disorders; including Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, Autism, and Down Syndrome. Currently, there is no such system in operation in Hernando County. When one of our loved ones with a cognitive disorder wander, they are in danger every second they are away. Current search methods are far less efficient, manpower-intensive, and costly.
DEVELOP A CITIZENS ADVISORY COUNCIL:
We are blessed to have a remarkably diverse county, both from the makeup of our residents and our geography. Hernando County enjoys areas of dense population as well as rural areas. Each unique area deserves to have their concerns and desires specifically addressed. Having a Citizen Advisory Council of community leaders established geographically will ensure that the needs and concerns of all residents will be heard. In times of budget constraints, it is important to narrow down as much as possible what the expectations are of our residents.
EXPAND AND IMPROVE THE RESERVE DEPUTY PROGRAM:
The current reserve deputy program is far too restrictive causing many retirees to decline to stay on as reserves. Currently, the only reserve model requires the reserve deputies to serve in patrol. Many retirees spend the latter parts of their careers in specialized areas such as investigations. Many have no desire to go back to patrol work. Offering specialized reserve positions will take advantage of the deputy’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. Retirees have a tremendous amount to offer our agency and are willing to do so for free.
EXPAND AND IMPROVE THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM:
The current volunteer program is far too restrictive and fails to capitalize on volunteers with previous law enforcement experience. Many retired officers from other states have tremendous credentials and are ready to serve. Recruiting former law enforcement officers to volunteer in specific specialized areas is a great force multiplier which will make the Sheriff’s Office more efficient. Many crucial tasks could be completed by volunteers with prior experience in law enforcement.
EXPAND AND IMPROVE TRAUMATIC INCIDENT SUPPORT:
Post-traumatic stress is a chronic problem in law enforcement. You need only look at the suicide rates of first responders to realize it. Currently when a traumatic incident occurs resources are made available for deputies who would like to use them. The problem is that the culture in law enforcement is that officers are afraid to show any weakness and will instead bottle up their feelings. Fear of being perceived as weak will stop many from using the resources. After traumatic incidents, we will have mandatory stress management reviews and counseling for deputies. This will remove the fears of perception and ensure that our men and women get the help they need.
INCREASE RETIREE ACCESS TO THE FACILITY AND INFORMATION:
Since my decision to run for Sheriff I have had several retirees tell me they do not feel welcome at HCSO since they retired. That is terrible for men and women who have given much of their lives in service to the agency. We will have a specialized area for retirees when they come to visit. The coffee will always be on and they will be greeted with respect and love. We will have a retiree liaison to make sure we are always sharing pertinent event information, urging them to stay plugged in.
CORRECT MISREPRESENTED DATA ON CALLS FOR SERVICE:
For some time, the Sheriff’s Office has used data on calls for service as a performance evaluation tool. As with any data, it can be manipulated. Specifically, one category tracked is the number of calls held over an hour. The data produced at accountability sessions regarding this category is grossly misrepresented. The reason is a process called stacking calls. When a call is stacked it shows as dispatched/assigned to a deputy and no longer holding. Stacking means the deputy is on another call and the stacked call is assigned for action after. The metric is supposed to tell you how many people wait more than an hour to get service, this is important for many reasons; however, the current data is inaccurate.
ATTACK DEPUTY SHORTAGE:
The Sheriff’s Office routinely has more than 20 open deputy positions. A deficit of this magnitude has a tremendous impact on operations. We will aggressively pursue new deputies and provide an atmosphere to retain our great people. The expansion of sponsorship positions must be evaluated. Recruiting Civilians from outside the agency that are already in the State Retirement system is a great place to start. Opportunities exist to recruit educated professionals with a flexible sponsorship program.
CORE FUNCTION RESOURCE ALLOCATION:
Patrol is the backbone of any agency, as such it will be the priority for staffing. The Sheriff’s Office has many great programs that are not core functions of law enforcement. Before staffing programs, we must keep our patrol division staffed. Resources must be spread throughout the county to ensure that the deputies have the support they need. Using the resources, you have wisely is crucial. Specialty units such as K-9 and traffic units will be assigned in geographic areas to enhance coverage allowing for more proactive patrol.