Jeff McAdams: A treacherous proposal to punish the Sheriff's Office


Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 10:04 p.m.

While I respect Alachua County Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson's opinion regarding the legalization of marijuana, I find his proposal to punish the Alachua County Sheriff's Office for enforcing existing laws that are on the books immensely troubling for several reasons.

Although I feel Commissioner Hutchinson's proposal to reduce the Sheriff's Office budget by a predetermined dollar figure for each misdemeanor marijuana arrest made the previous year far exceeds the Alachua County Commission's authority and will never pass, the fact that Commissioner Hutchinson even made such a treacherous proposal causes me critical concerns on many levels.

Law enforcement officers derive the majority of their authority to enforce laws in the great state of Florida from the state Legislature, although the Alachua County Commission may pass local ordinances, which deputy sheriffs can enforce. However, Commissioner Hutchinson's proposal would effectively circumvent some current marijuana laws currently on the books in Florida, and if the sheriff's deputies of Alachua County failed to abide by Commissioner Hutchinson's proposal, then the Sheriff's Office would effectively be punished by being fined.

This issue goes far beyond the simple use of marijuana. If such a proposal was ever enacted, it would have the effect of granting the Alachua County Commission legislative authority intended only for the state Legislature. If successful with this issue, would the Alachua County Commission stop there? You already know the answer.

Such a proposal would also cause irreparable harm to the public. I do not envision nor would I support a deputy sheriff not enforcing a law for fear that the Sheriff's Office budget might be unlawfully and negatively impacted. The results would be a reduced Sheriff's Office budget, which would almost certainly translate into layoffs, resulting in less deputy sheriffs patrolling neighborhoods and streets.

Again, while I respect Commissioner Hutchinson's opinion regarding minor marijuana cases in Alachua County, his proposal far exceeds his authority, and even that of the sheriff, to direct deputy sheriffs on which laws they will not enforce.

I strongly urge Commissioner Hutchinson to pursue the changes he is seeking in marijuana laws through the proper legislative channels.

Gator Lodge 67, Fraternal Order of Police, stands with the sheriff and all law enforcement in opposing the idea that the Sheriff's Office stop enforcing relevant laws or face retaliation from the Board of Alachua County Commission. Gator Lodge 67, FOP, is the collective bargaining agent representing Alachua County sheriff's deputies; Alachua County sheriff correctional officers; Gainesville Police Department sergeants, officers, corporals; and Alachua Police Department officers and sergeants. The FOP is the largest law enforcement union in the United States, representing 330,000 active and retired law enforcement officers nationwide.

Jeff McAdams is president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Gator Lodge 67.

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