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CCSO Tested but Excelled during Exceptionally Trying Week. One Reason Explains Why.

Highly effective leaders mold organizations in their likeness. We see this in sports, politics and business.


Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers were aspirational and achieved what they hadn’t been able to do in two decades the moment he walked in the door. Former President Donald Trump’s followers are tough and unapologetic, if sometimes to a fault. Elon Musk’s new “hardcore” philosophy has an inspired, small group of engineers bucking the Silicon Valley work trends to not only keep Twitter operation, but also likely on its way to being highly profitable.


The leader does not always have to be as forward-facing as these three, but the publicity is an inevitable byproduct of the polarization that this style of leadership creates. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the leader’s persona is inseparable from their group.


We have someone like this locally, and it was on full display this week. Sheriff Mike Prendergast and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) overcame more this week than potentially any other since the Sheriff was elected six years ago.


The week began last Sunday when a homeless man in Homosassa performed a sex act in a middle of a convenience store before violently resisting arrest. It would only get worse from there.


In a 24 hour span, there would be an animal abuse case, a child neglect case, a suicide and a fatal shooting. And hours before all this began? A recognition of excellence. Let’s start there.


On Wednesday afternoon, CCSO announced it won its third consecutive Excelsior Accreditation Award from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. The celebration would be short-lived as the professionalism of the agency was about to be tested that night.


In the evening hours of Wednesday, a 38-year-old Beverly Hills woman was taken into custody on animal abuse and child neglect charges. Whatever image pops into your mind, the reality was probably worse.


Over 300 rats were running loose in addition to 50 additional rats in cages. The child was on a roach-covered bed surrounded in the blood of rats killed by one of the over a dozen cats. But the night was just beginning.


Two separate incidents in the early morning hours on Thursday would prove fatal for the lawbreakers. Unfortunately, one of them was just 25-years-old who was working in a Pine Ridge drug home with an eight-time convicted felon who also had over 20 misdemeanor charges. When SWAT was clearing the home, the young man retreated into a bathroom where he was shortly after found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Detectives serving the search warrant would go on to find methamphetamine, cocaine and a firearm.


The other incident though would come as a result of a confrontation with deputies. After fleeing a domestic abuse situation, the suspect hid under a trailer of a Homosassa business. Deputies aided by K9 units tracked his whereabouts, and after the suspect was unresponsive to surrendering commands, were forced to fatally respond as the suspect pointed a firearm at them. No deputies or K9s were harmed.


This comes just days after a domestic situation led to a murder last Friday. Need a breath? Maybe you’re wondering where all this crime came from. While population growth is going to account for some of it, the real cause is likely that it is being confronted head-on.


CCSO understands the mission to clean up the streets and has worked tirelessly in pursuit of that order.


This relentlessness mixed with the utmost professionalism is a reflection of the Sheriff himself. And yet, some still criticize him for not being community-oriented enough. This doesn’t mean that the Sheriff’s Office is representative of all Citrus County has to offer, there are plenty of organizations that contribute to that, but let’s take a closer look at last week.


On both Saturdays, the Sheriff personally walked with his team in the Crystal River and Inverness Christmas Parades hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. And the accreditation award? That cited the creation of the Behavior Health Unit last year which leverages community resources to prevent crime through addressing underlying issues like mental health.


Whether it’s going door-to-door on side streets or walking down the parade route on main street, CCSO is well-represented and it’s because its leader has molded it to be so.


Highly effective, sometimes polarizing leaders make their organizations an extension of themselves. CCSO is professional, fearless and loyal to serving the community above all else. This week earned each of those titles but the reputation has been six years in the making.


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