Unification of law enforcement


In an editorial that I read in the Gainesville Sun yesterday, the paper asked the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners some tough questions. Questions that – given our current budget situation – should be asked locally.

The Sun quoted a retired corrections officer who says, “Alachua County, like any forward-looking government, should consider getting ahead of the curve on consolidation for more professional law enforcement rather than trying to catch up later because of budget constraints”.

In support of this idea, State Attorney Bill Cervone, asked Gainesville’s city and county commissioners to engage in “an honest discussion of the possibility of unification of law enforcement.”

Because of the Amendment 1 property tax limitations and Florida’s worsening economy, the prospect of continuing deficits into the next several years is nearly certain.

I am a public safety advocate. County Commissioners as well as commissioners in the City of St. Augustine and the City of St. Augustine Beach are desperately looking for ways to provide adequate public safety services with inadequate budget dollars in my opinion.

In asking the rhetorical question, “If not now, when?”, The Sun questions events that could follow further delays in addressing this possibility — such as layoffs and budget constraints beginning to take their toll on both city and county police agencies.

Given the current and projected status of St. Johns County’s economy, could the next tax revolt trigger still more limitations on local government revenues? I believe so.

As occurred in Gainesville, turf-guarding politicians have passed up the opportunity to consider law enforcement mergers in St. Augustine.

In the early 1980’s and again in 1992, Alachua commissioners turned a deaf ear to the idea of merging the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua Sheriff’s Office. According to The Sun, there is apparently no appetite for such a discussion on either commission today despite the fact that the fiscal climate has only worsened since then.

The Sun says “It’s time to talk about unification, commissioners” and perhaps we could benefit by such an honest discussion here.