The Florida Sheriffs Association 2011 Mid-Winter Conference in Amelia Island, hosted by Nassau County Sheriff Tommy Seagraves, was a tremendous success. There were more than 500 attendees, which included 59 of the 67 Sheriffs - a record for this event. The challenges Sheriffs’ agencies are facing brought them looking for professional networking and solutions.
The conference kicked off Monday, January 24, with a lively training session on “Trends Impacting Society and Law Enforcement,” led by Lewis G. Bender, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University. Florida Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox was our luncheon speaker, standing in for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was attending the funeral for Miami-Dade Police detectives Roger Castillo, 41, and Amanda Haworth, 44, killed in the line of duty last week.
The afternoon included “Best Practices” on Social Media, organized by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell’s staff. Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy’s Office presented on their volunteer program and Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron spoke on Municipal Service Taxing Units.
Tuesday’s morning session included a visit by National Sheriffs Association President Sheriff B.J. Roberts, followed by presentations on: The Florida Sheriffs Explorers Association, Florida Self Insurance Fund, Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, Florida Deputy Sheriffs Association, Florida Special Olympics and the Florida Innocence Commission.
A special treat was hearing directly from Rashad, a young man from Palm Beach County, who credits the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches with helping him get his life back on track.
Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, FSA Legislative Chair, presented an update on pending legislation before the Sheriffs broke for lunch.
A highlight of the Tuesday luncheon was a keynote by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. The afternoon continued with an emotion-charged presentation by a survivor of Sexual Predator abduction. Alicia Kozakiewicz was 13 years old when she met a man online who spent a year “grooming” her for the abduction. She is now 21 years old and travels throughout the country with her mother, Mary Kozakiewicz, speaking to groups to raise the awareness on the issues related to her experience.
Later, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters spoke to the Sheriffs, as did Julie Hurst, president of the Florida Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd talked about “Preying on the Predator,” and outlined the successful special operations his agency has conducted. Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy gave an update on FSA’s Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative, which included a presentation by his Lt. Dave DeCarlo, on the new NetSmartz program.
Florida Wildlife Commission Dean Kelly, former Sheriff of Putnam County, rounded off the afternoon with an update on the Rural Crime Intelligence Support Program.
Tuesday night’s banquet had Gov. Rick Scott visiting with the Sheriffs and guests before delivering his keynote talk during dinner. He remained with the Sheriffs and was on hand to congratulate the Florida Sheriffs Association Correctional Officer of the Year, Maria McClamma.
The night ended on a high note, as Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton had issued a challenge to her fellow Sheriffs to try to raise $50,000 to help re-open one of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches cottages that was closed last year due to economic conditions. At the banquet, FSYR President Roger Bouchard announced that they exceeded that amount - raising a total of $61,405 by conference end. He thanked all of the FSA exhibitors, the Sheriffs who pledged personally or gave from their forfeiture funds, and guests. Thanks to this donation, all cottages closed last year will re-open by March and 50 more kids will be served.
Look for more highlights on the conference in the spring editions of The Sheriff’s Star magazine and All Points Bulletin.