Lee Alexander: Here’s how I would improve the sheriff’s office
Today I would just like to share some of the important areas I feel need to be changed at the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). Change is never easy; however, it is often needed.
In order to implement our complete community policing plan, we must restructure the agency to allow more personnel to be deployed to the frontlines and reduce the amount of administrative overhead positions that create delay in plan implementation. This restructure will place 20 additional deputies on the street providing service to our citizens without raising the budget one penny. Ten deputies will be deployed as community resource officers and 10 will be used as described in the next section.
Enhanced traffic enforcement
During this campaign, traffic related issues have been the top concern of citizens, two to one. As a result, I intend to focus on enhanced traffic enforcement in order to create a safer environment for our residents.
Enhanced traffic enforcement not only would create safer roads, but a safer community. Traffic is the key to all criminal activity. I believe, along with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), that increased attention to traffic enforcement is the key to reducing crime. Just read the local headlines or headlines anywhere and you will see that many drug arrests, warrant arrests, etc. occur as the result of traffic stops. In addition, a well-publicized and visible traffic enforcement effort helps deter crime by its mere existence.
The restructuring of the agency will allow 10 additional traffic units to be deployed to enhance the current traffic enforcement effort. This realignment will allow us to aggressively attack the issue that endangers our citizens. Only through such innovative steps can we truly make Citrus County the safest place in Florida.
The importance of ensuring the safety of our students as they attend school cannot be overstated. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the CCSO must work cooperatively with the school district. The CCSO must provide the district with the resources they request and do so as partners not adversaries. An open line of communication between the school district and the CCSO must exist to guarantee that the needs of our students are met.
Operational transparency by the CCSO is critical to developing a cooperative relationship with the citizens they serve. The deployment of body cameras worn by deputies would help protect them from unjust complaints, assist with protecting citizens from improper use of force, and provide enhanced evidence collection capabilities. The use of such equipment will help to improve the community’s trust of the CCSO. Many residents voiced this as an issue they found important. I support the use of body worn cameras; however, my opponent has stated many times he is against their use. As an agency, the CCSO must be willing to be open to public scrutiny to develop the trust necessary to succeed.
Aging and mental health issues
With 36% of our population over the age of 65 we must accept that one of the fastest growing situations facing local law enforcement is issues of aging. It is estimated that we have over 10,000 sufferers of some form of Dementia here in Citrus County. With two to three caregivers per sufferer, that is approximately 40,000 of our fellow citizens directly impacted by these conditions every day. That is over one third of our county population affected by a single situation. As a result, it is something that members of the CCSO will be required to a handle and we must provide them the tools necessary to care for those in need. I would propose to create a joint task force covering the full spectrum of service providers dealing with dementia-related issues. Only through such a cooperative effort can we get the job done.
All efforts dealing with the needs of our seniors such as mentioned above would fall under an expanded version of the current Senior Services Section. Senior Services will be staffed to handle the many needs of our growing population of seniors.
It is sad but true that all too often those suffering from mental health issues are frequently misidentified or simply treated as criminals and taken to jail. Such a response does not resolve the situation or aid the individual suffering from the mental health issue. CCSO personnel must be trained to properly identify, handle, and resolve situations dealing with people suffering from a mental health crisis or condition. We cannot simply ignore such situations we must be prepared to help.
Employee relations/ retention
The CCSO is currently spending thousands of dollars on recruitment efforts because the agency is unable to maintain a stable workforce. There are many factors that contribute to this situation; however, pay, promotions and work environment are the leading cause of employee departures. In addition, recruitment efforts are hindered by the reputation the agency has with regards to its treatment of employees as tools rather than people.
In order to establish a stable and positive work environment, I will create an Employee/Volunteer Relations Committee (EVRC) that will consist of non-supervisory personnel from all sections of the CCSO. They will provide suggestions on how to resolve employee related situations primarily involving morale. I, of course, will maintain ultimate responsibility for actions taken as a result of information gained. I prefer to have complete information and am not afraid to hear that everything is not “rosy.”
Members of the EVRC may also serve as representatives for employees during internal affairs investigations or any disciplinary actions. This provides them with the necessary assistance and reassurance that they are being treated fairly throughout such a process. This is another step I will take to create a positive and healthy work environment for all personnel. Pay, equipment and training will be priorities and improving these areas will enhance retention.
These areas are just a few that I believe need addressed to better serve the citizens of Citrus County and enhance the work environment for employees and volunteers.
Lee Alexander is a candidate for Citrus County Sheriff.
Published in the Citrus County Chronicle 10/25/2020