February 03, 2014

Florida Sheriffs at Work in Washington DC

By: Steve Casey, Executive Director

This week I, along with several members of the my staff, traveled to Washington DC to attend the winter meeting of the Major County Sheriffs Association (MCSA) and the National Sheriffs Association (NSA).

The MCSA was established in 1996, to focus on the unique concerns of sheriffs’ offices serving communities with a population of 500,000 or more. In Florida, there are seven sheriffs’ offices which are members of this group. Sheriff Grady Judd (Polk), Sheriff Jerry Demings (Orange), and Sheriff Bob Gaultieri (Pinellas) attended the meeting, as well as a number of other key officials from Florida Sheriffs’ Offices.

The NSA was established in 1940 to represent the concerns of all sheriffs. This group is dedicated to protecting the Office of Sheriff and is the official voice of the sheriffs in the nation's capital. All the sheriffs (67) in our state maintain membership in this group via their membership in the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA).

While there, we heard from federal law enforcement officials like: US Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James Comey and DEA Administrator Michelle Marie Leonheart regarding the critical issues facing law enforcement nationally and internationally (i.e., human trafficking, illegal immigration, legalization of drugs, importation of unregulated synthetic drugs and violent gangs operating in our country and abroad). Our sheriffs and their deputies work closely with their federal law enforcement counterparts on a daily basis to keep us safe on a number of fronts, so it's important to share information with these agencies and ensure we are working in a coordinated fashion.

In addition, we met with congressional staff to discuss changes proposed by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which, if implemented, would negatively impact our sheriffs’ ability to operate jails in a secure manner. Many of the rules implemented by federal agencies impact our ability to provide service to citizens locally, so it’s important that federal officials and lawmakers understand the impact of the decisions they make. Sheriff Judd, who is also the President of FSA, attended a number of these meetings with us to make our point clear.

Further, we met with NSA President Sheriff Mike Leidholt, NSA Executive Director Aaron Kennard, and the NSA Executive Committee and Board of Directors to discuss issues pertaining to the operation of the state sheriffs associations.

The state sheriffs associations work closely with the staff at NSA to ensure the programs and services offered by the group are available to our member sheriffs. Further, the state associations rely on NSA to handle legislative and congressional issues that affect local sheriffs. Sheriff Susan Benton (Highland) represents Florida on the NSA Board and is a strong advocate in such matters.

We ended the week with a behind the scene tour of the White House. As we talked with the Secret Service Agent who conducted the tour, I could not help but notice how professional and committed he was to his duty of protecting the President and the First Family and the staff at the White House. At the end of the tour, he told us he started his law enforcement career as a deputy working in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in the late 1970s. I must admit, it made me proud to know that he was originally from Florida and began his career, as I did, working for a Florida Sheriff.

As we departed, it became even clearer to me, that regardless of our assignments, we are all really working to accomplish the same goal, which is to maintain and enhance public safety at every level of government.

In closing, while there isn't a lot of good news coming out of Washington these days, I can tell you that your sheriffs are working hard with their partners to keep our communities safe.

Until next time, stay safe!

Behind the Badge is the official blog of the Florida Sheriffs Association.



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