Law enforcement is in Scott Swope's blood.
He grew up watching his older brother wear the uniform as a patrolman in Michigan. That could be where his interest in law and the U.S. Constitution took root.
Swope knew he would be part of that “honorable profession” and served six years as a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy before becoming a lawyer. Swope, 43, is now running for sheriff.
“I always would stand tall when I told someone I was a deputy,” he said.
Sheriff's Focus Is Misplaced, Swope Says
Swope calls the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office mismanaged. Don’t get him wrong; Swope is friends with many deputies and feels like the tenets of professionalism, integrity and truthfulness are there.
“I hate to see, what seems to me, the sheriff’s office is going down the wrong stance from a policy standpoint,” Swope said.
The focus is diverted from important things, he said. The area leads the state in prescription medication deaths, Swope said. Rather than watch prescription medication clinics, detectives spend time watching surveillance footage taken outside of Simply Hydroponics. Swope also thinks the time and money spent raiding Internet sweepstakes cafes is misguided.
“To me, that’s one of the big problems,” Swope said.
An Opportunity to Reallocate Resources
He does not agree with interim Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s recent use of roadblocks for DUI enforcement. Swope said proper training in techniques to identify and apprehend drivers who are under the influence could be a more effective use of resources.
“That, to me, is a gestapo tactic,” Swope said.
Swope added that former Sheriff Jim Coats made the decision to axe the DUI enforcement squad a few years ago.
Swope knows that year after year of budget cuts have left the office hurting. But he does not understand cuts to the crimes against children and sexual predator tracking units.
He also is critical of the move to take away a detective working cases with the Clearwater Area Task Force Against Human Trafficking.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me why the sheriff’s office would go down that path,” Swope said. “Because it just seems so crystal clear to me that they ought to be expending their limited resources on crimes that adversely affect other people.”
The Candidate's Background
Swope’s family moved to Florida when he was 6 years old. He started his career in law enforcement as an Explorer with Largo Police. He went on to spend six years as a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy.
He left in 1994 after working as a traffic homicide detective, among other duties. While working as a deputy, Swope completed a degree in finance from the University of South Florida. He then attended law school at the University of Florida.
He thought about running for sheriff a few years ago when Everett Rice stepped down. He decided the campaign could wait — his young family came first.
In the past eight years, Swope's law practice has grown, and so have his daughters. The time spent away at forums and campaigning now does not have as much of an impact on his family.
He launched a Facebook page and campaign website. The biggest lesson Swope has learned since starting is that it is hard to fundraise. But he is ready to run.
“I wanted to do it eight years ago, but it just wasn’t the right time,” Swope said.