My entire professional career in law enforcement has been here in Lee County, FL. For over three decades, I’ve poured my life into understanding the agency and looking for opportunities to make it greater. Injecting myself in nearly every position and department in the agency has given me a unique insight into areas that need serious improvement.
Not having a proactive plan in place is not an option.
There are additional criminal elements to almost every human trafficking situation. Whether it be narcotics use, prostitution or physical abuse, statistics prove that these crews will be running into law enforcement. It is my intent to require mandatory specialized training to better familiarize officers with the signs of this cruel exploitation.
Fully utilizing the public is essential to this initiative’s success by way of anonymous hotlines for victim and community reporting with a potential financial compensation as well as public awareness campaigns.
I will make sure that at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office anti-human trafficking efforts are highly prioritized, staffed and funded. All successful law enforcement entails a multi-pronged approach and as such, I plan to work closely with state and federal agencies to eliminate this threat in Lee County.
The prevention, protection, and successful prosecution of sex trafficking will take a community effort and under my command, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will have a strong presence against this merciless victimization.
As nighttime Watch Commander, I identified a growing trend in calls for community service involving emotionally disturbed individuals or citizens with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD), suicide attempts and unintentional overdoses. At that time, I proposed an initiative to form a Special Response Team to assist these highly sensitive and potentially volatile calls.
To date, this particular unit does not exist in Lee County, and I feel that these circumstances warrant advanced care.
The fact that this team still has not been implemented is a telltale that decision-makers in the agency are entirely out of touch with the needs of the officers working the road and the citizens of Lee County. The current method is grossly inefficient and results in a strain on all parties involved: the officer, medical staff and ultimately the member of the community that needs our help.
The development of this team will create better teamwork between law enforcement, EMS, hospital personnel and patients alike which will ultimately lessen the probability of issues arising from these high-risk calls and significantly reducing potential lawsuits. The implementation of this team alone can save the citizens of Lee County countless dollars and allow me to better use those resources in the areas we need it most.
Nearly everyone you talk to has a family member or close family friend who has become a victim of this opioid epidemic—the problem is touching every family in America.
To some extent, I’m confident this is being addressed. However, it’s clear that this issue is not as much of a priority as is warranted.
The Narcotics Division is the unit designed to handle this issue, and they do a fantastic job. But having worked in Narcotics, I have an appreciation and have seen firsthand that a multi-agency effort is a force with which to be reckoned. With the opioid issue, specifically, a multi-pronged approach goes farther than street level, and new workforce and resources are crucial for the success of these types of investigations.
It’s a simple formula: Reduced Presence of Opioids + Reduced Access = Reduced Usage by the community at large.
Additionally, most estimates relate over 80% of all crimes to narcotic use which means we can expect a drop in the crime rate with the successful implementation of this task force.
Proactive policing is when law enforcement officials are looking for crimes when and or just before they occur, as opposed to reactively responding after the crimes occur only to merely write a report and send off for investigation.
As a road deputy, early in my career, I witnessed firsthand the effect that proactive policing has on the community. Through this practice of proactive policing, I was able to make numerous arrests which lead to being nominated and awarded “Deputy of the Month” four times. Implementing this concept agency-wide will ultimately lead to getting the bad guys off the streets, lowering the crime rate and making Lee County a safer place for the children, families and loved ones.
According to Cubit Planning, Lee County ranks eighth in the state—out of sixty-seven counties— for population size (info received from https://www.florida-demographics.com/counties_by_population). Despite its size, our community ranks SECOND-TO-LAST in sworn law enforcement officers per 1000 citizens. The national average is roughly two and a half times that of our current staffing.
You may ask yourself “why isn’t this happening already?” I believe that whether it be intentional or unintentional, the reason is the same: neglect. A lack of adequate staffing is a prime example of “experience” being paramount in the selection of Sheriff.
Gross understaffing can be observed throughout the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, particularly in Road Patrol, Corrections and Communications. What would twice as much workforce on the streets of Lee County mean to you? To start, it would mean faster response times, safer responses for both the public and law enforcement and a much-needed return to proactive policing.
This immediate improvement sets us on the projection for long-term success, but it does so much more than that. The educational and social programs both in the community and the correctional facilities are shown to reduce recidivism; additional staff can reduce altercations and in turn lower medical costs. The ripple effects of Adequate Staffing are countless.
While all sworn personnel in Lee County are active shooter trained annually, I believe this isn’t enough, especially in regards to School Resource Officers and Court Operations/Bailiffs. Being in the areas most likely for an Active Shooter Scenario to occur, the personnel mentioned above should receive enhanced training with increased frequency.
Unfortunately, these scenarios erupt quickly and evolve even faster. Law enforcement response training and preparedness are our best lines of defense against these deadly crimes.
This realignment will allow me to put more boots on the street, which is at a critical mass and is the very first task I’ll undertake as your Sheriff.
I cannot stress it enough: more boots on the ground lowers the crime rate, increases public awareness of law enforcement and creates a safer community in which we live.
Lee County deserves to have every penny in the budget that the citizens and County Commissioners of Lee County have approved to be spent in the areas that would best serve the county.
While this is a lot to take on, it’s only the beginning of what can happen when real-world experience can meet the needs of our community.
Countdown to August 18
Primary Election Day!
Dr. James C.