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?
Scott Swope answers:
I believe that many of the smaller municipalities in Pinellas County could benefit from contracting with the Sheriff’s Office. The amounts paid by a municipality to have the Sheriff’s Office provide law enforcement service in the city are generally less than what the municipality pays to maintain its own police department. The citizens living within the boundaries of the city would also receive law enforcement service that includes K-9s, a SWAT team, helicopter support, and marine patrol. Additionally, the citizens within the city would receive the benefit of detectives who have been highly trained in traffic homicide investigation and crime scene investigation.
I understand, however, that the police departments in many of the municipalities in Pinellas County have a rich history and tradition that is worthy of maintaining. For some municipalities, it is worth spending more tax dollars to maintain their own police department because the elected officials in that city can exert more control over the activities of the police department in response to citizen complaints and concerns.
If asked by local elected officials, the Sheriff’s Office should provide the municipalities with information regarding the services that could be provided and the costs associated with those services. However, I do not believe that the Sheriff’s Office should actively encourage municipalities to eliminate their police departments. The officials elected by the citizens in a particular municipality should be the ones to make the first move.
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.
Swope on previous Patch Podiums: