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?
Bob Gualtieri answers:
There are three certainties about the Sheriff's Office contracting with a city to be its law enforcement provider: 1) the city and its citizens will save a significant amount of money, if for no other reason than economies of scale; 2) the city will receive as good or better law enforcement services than it is currently receiving from its own police department, including "personalized service" and maintaining control of its policing; and 3) it is an emotionally charged issue that evokes significant debate on both sides of the issue.
I believe strongly in intergovernmental consolidations because they allow for a better, more efficient and cost effective delivery of services to our citizens. Government consolidations need to be the focus of future budget savings efforts as the unilateral cuts have largely been exhausted. Nevertheless, I also respect the right of city commissions/councils and their citizens to make their own decisions whether to contract with the Sheriff's Office or maintain their own police departments.
I believe the Sheriff's role in the process is to provide accurate fiscal and service level information, answer questions directly and then let the cities and their residents make their decision. I do not believe the Sheriff should "lobby" or work behind the scenes to advocate for "taking over" a police department.
There are many consolidation opportunities in Pinellas County but whether they will materialize is another question. I have and will continue to advocate for certain "functional consolidations." This is short of full consolidation and merges certain functions, such as forensics, property and evidence storage and dispatch.
I am a strong advocate for merging police dispatch centers throughout the county and especially the Sheriff's emergency communications with the County 911 call center. There is redundancy and wasted taxpayer resources by having both a Sheriff's emergency communications center and a County 911 call center when there can be greater efficiency and better service delivery by consolidating the two centers. Today, the different call centers cost Pinellas County taxpayers approximately $4.5 million each. Significant money can be saved by consolidating into one emergency communications center and the right time is now for that to happen. I am actively working with the County Commission to make this a reality.
The sheriff's candidates will debate 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 National Armed Services & Law Enforcement Memorial Museum and Bay News 9.
Gualtieri on previous Patch Podiums: