Today is the first day of July, and as I started these columns during the first week of February, it has taken five full months but it has finally happened. I get to defend Sheriff Mike Prendergast.
For those who don’t know the background, I started working for Sheriff Prendergast shortly after he retired from the Army over a decade ago. I’ve held numerous jobs in communications capacities across a variety of organizations including for the Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs and twice as his campaign manager for sheriff.
I’ve cognizantly tried to avoid highlighting the numerous successes of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office throughout these columns. The purpose of the Concurrent is in no way meant to be a mouthpiece for former or future clients of Winsler Consulting.
The Concurrent’s purpose is to take what people are discussing or what the Chronicle is reporting and give it context so that new perspectives can be presented.
A story that received 140 comments in the first five hours on the Chronicle’s Facebook page yesterday, an impressive amount for a story that didn’t simultaneously run in that morning’s newspaper, was titled, “CCSO awaiting direction from DeSantis to support Florida deployment plan to US-Mexico border.” It had the same headline in today’s print edition.
The headline implies that CCSO is sending deputies to the border and this outcome is an inevitability. It’s not. The most likely outcome, as the Chronicle story notes in the second to last paragraph, is that CCSO deputies might fill vacancies left by state law enforcement in Florida rather than travel to Texas.
It’s a possibility local law enforcement deploys outside of Florida but one far more fiction than fact currently.
What is for certain is that the Governor has agreed to send 50 law enforcement officials from state agencies and that at least 20 counties including Citrus have volunteered reinforcements from their local agencies if asked.
This headline is either intentionally sensational or ignorantly misleading, neither of which are a reflection on Buster Thompson who wrote the story since reporters rarely write their own headlines, but is a standard practice of the Chronicle editorial staff especially when it comes to stories regarding CCSO.
The first concern of most people is that this mission pulls resources away from our agency at a time when they are needed most.
With over 20 counties already agreeing to deploy resources, many such as Hillsborough and Brevard SOs that are much bigger than CCSO, and only 50 state law enforcement vacancies confirmed then it is almost an impossibility to imagine more than one deputy from Citrus will be required. In addition to presumably only needing a single deputy, each shift is just 16 days long.
Another common argument is that resources should be sent to Surfside to help with search and rescue efforts rather than to Texas. Many Facebook commenters in response pointed out that SAR missions are vastly different from law enforcement roles our local deputies would be filling in as but I can’t speak to that.
What I do know is about government command. When Gov. DeSantis declared a state of emergency for Surfside, it became a federal-led mission from FEMA. Texas and Arizona were state governors asking for help from other states, which Gov. DeSantis was the first but not the last to respond, and numerous quotes point to him knowing federal aid is not a factor in this.
Also, at the risk of sounding calloused, Surfside is a tragedy but not one that directly impacts Citrus County. This deployment is.
Gov. DeSantis met with a team of sheriffs last week and through shared data and experience it was determined that methamphetamine from Mexico was showing up in our Florida counties so this maneuver would be preventative to stop the flow before it gets here rather than reactive once it does. Just last Sunday, Chronicle publisher Gerry Mulligan’s commentary talked about the merits of having a proactive government. Law enforcement is leading by example.
The last reason why Sheriff Prendergast is making the right decision is because inter-agency relationships are critical. CCSO has caught a local man in North Carolina who had committed crimes against a 12-year-old, recently taken almost $600,000 worth of drugs off our streets from a mid-level drug dealer and even helped arrest a shooter from New York City’s Times Square all through inter-agency cooperation.
We should be promoting these relationships, not using sensationalized headlines to create community division regarding our Sheriff’s decision to strengthen them.