Tampa Bay Breakfast Club Hosts Virtual Conversation with Pinellas County Sheriff Candidates.
The Tampa Bay Breakfast Club with support from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Organize Florida and Tampa Dream Defenders, hosted a virtual conversation segment with candidates seeking to become or remain Sheriff of Pinellas County. Black and Brown citizens are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and determining who gets to lead the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, makes this particular race of utter importance.
The segment was moderated by Pastor Andy Oliver of Allendale Methodist Church and Film Director and Community Organizer Jabaar Edmonds. Current Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, and candidates James McLynas, and Eliseo Santana were in attendance. Black Lives Matter demonstrations have gripped the nation, for months. The calls for accountability, fair enforcement of laws, decarceration, and abolishing of police forces are louder than ever. Those topics in addition to how the jail system has handled COVID-19 were all on the table.
In the state of Florida, “as of June 22, 2020, over 570 incarcerated people and over 50 correctional staff have died and most of the largest coronavirus outbreaks are in correctional facilities”. In Pinellas County, the Sheriff was most recently criticized for placing demonstrators in jail with a known COVID-19 outbreak in progress.
When addressed with questions, the Sheriff gave responses that spoke to embracing reform, but were also cemented in the perception that the Pinellas County Sheriffs Office is doing a great job. Gualtieri spoke about his involvement in the Use of Force Policy initiative, and supporting the requirement that law enforcement officers verbalize their commands before using lethal force, and having already implementing actions suggested by the 8 Can’t Wait Campaign.
Both James McLynas and Eliseo Santana countered the Sheriff’s response by noting the types of predatory behavior that officers currently engage in during the patrolling of black and brown communities; and that Adult PreArrest Diversion (APAD) is still part of the criminal justice system that criminalizes and targets minorities. Citizens entered into APAD are subjected to fines and supervision and this only heightens the mass incarceration crisis. It is important to note that as jail incarceration numbers decrease pre-trial numbers increase.
Another important topic covered during the conversation was that of the culture of policing and the need for it to change. The opportunity for voters in Pinellas County to change the culture of policing in their community starts on August 18th, which is the primary election. Don’t know your voting status or need to register to vote visit votepinellas.com.
Watch the segment here.