Sarasota Sheriff: Stronger Together” means serving as GUARDIANS of our community rather than an occupying force.
Following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis Police officers on May 25, 2020, the nation has seen protests, riots, and several calls to action for law enforcement agencies coming from formal and informal reform groups. Here on the suncoast, Sarasota County and its municipalities have been home to nearly a dozen peaceful protests which have yet to end in any arrests, major property damage or destruction. On May 29, Sheriff Tom Knight issued a statement condemning the actions of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin who was indicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree murder. On June 8, Knight also wrote an op-ed titled “The Path Forward Starts with Leadership and Culture,” published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
While Americans have digested the events of both Minneapolis and Louisville, we have been monitoring the national conversation regarding police reform and taking a hard look at our policies and procedures. While we are far from “perfect,” we pride ourselves on being in tune with what our community wants and expects out of us and more often than not, we are right on par. George Floyd’s death however, sparked a new level of national outrage that calls on all police agencies to respond and that is why we created this webpage and this campaign.
If you have been on social media lately or watching the news, you may have come across Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait campaign, which was created in 2016, but is getting more traction now than ever. According to the organization, their review “examines the use of force policies of 91 of America’s 100 largest cities’ police departments to identify the policies that establish restrictions on how and when police use force against civilians. Working with legal experts, advocates, and academics with an expertise in this area, eight major policies are identified that establish meaningful restrictions on police use of force – especially deadly force – against civilians.”
The below image is from Campaign Zero’s report and shows the eight policies their organization is demanding law enforcement agencies across the country implement ASAP. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office currently complies with seven out of eight policies.
In addition to these eight demands, we are also hearing discussion about the need for increased transparency when it comes to public access to personnel files, disciplinary records, and more. We are hearing discussions on the idea of “defunding the police” and reallocating funds for the purpose of addressing societal injustices. Finally, we are hearing reform groups demand the implementation of body-worn camera programs, an initiative we believe has no bearing on officer and civilian safety if the agency’s culture is outdated and out of touch.
How We Serve: Defining the Culture of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office will show you how our agency is responding to the national conversation and while this is an ongoing project, we wanted to be timely in our response to the community and nation. How We Serve: Defining the Culture of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is a campaign we created for you, the citizens of Sarasota County, to see just how we serve our community and how our CULTURE shapes our identity as a law enforcement agency. Be sure to read through all 12 concepts and visit the links we provide. You will find that we believe in research, data, and making policy decisions that best reflect the community we serve.
The following information is current as of June 16, 2020 however, is subject to change.
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