New Year reorganization for Sheriffs Office

DAVID B. SHOARThe New Year is always an exciting time. On New Year’s Eve, we celebrate either to put a not-so-good year to rest or to count our blessings for a good year now passing.

In both cases, we welcome the next 12 months with eager anticipation that it will be filled with good things for family, our friends and us. I am particularly looking forward to 2012 and the continuation of some exciting and rather dramatic changes that have been implemented for your Sheriff’s Office.

Every generation of law enforcement professional has faced unique challenges. Yet, they have used those challenges to improve their organizations and the quality of the services they provide.

The depression of the 1930s, the civil rights era of the 1960’s, the anti-war and anti-police environment of the 1970’s and the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s all resulted in historic changes in the training, equipment and tactics we use to enforce the law and protect the public.

In St. Johns County, we now face another historic challenge. We must continue to provide premium law enforcement and public safety services in an environment of rapid population increases and revenue stream decreases.

Thankfully, we have a workforce of intelligent, hardworking people who have the creative energy to seek out innovative ways to address this mandate. As a result, we have implemented a comprehensive change in the organization of the Sheriff’s Office.

There is a growing consensus that law enforcement can best control crime and provide the needed public safety services by being aware of identifiable risks such as criminal hot spots, repeat victims and frequent offenders within a given geographical area, as discussed a couple of months ago in a column titled Intelligence Led Policing.

In a county as large as ours, given the fact that our office is solely responsible for law enforcement issues in all areas outside the cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach, we are talking about an overwhelming volume of activity.

Our plan has reduced the size of the geographical areas for which assigned deputies, sergeants and lieutenants are responsible and created a new streamlined command staff to lead them.

The county has been divided into two regions each overseen by a Regional Chief. Each region has two districts commanded by a District Commander. The District Commander could be comparable to a local police chief for the district in which you reside. The four districts have separated the county in the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and the Southwest.

There will be a fifth district, known as Central, designed to perform the myriad of additional duties that are critical to public safety such as Investigations, Communications, the SWAT team, Marine and Air Units and other necessary specialized support services for the districts and the two regions.

It is my firm belief and desire that this plan will give you the opportunity to participate in the safety of your local area as you get to know patrol deputies, sergeants and lieutenants in your neighborhood and most likely your district commander who will be actively be involved in the local St. Johns County community where you live. This will be community policing at its best; enhanced by the latest technology and best law enforcement support systems available today.

As always, I thank you for your support of the SJSO and welcome your comments and suggestions. My email address is dshoar@sjso.org.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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