Attorney – Greenspoon Marder, P.A.
Leadership Tampa Class of 2014
As the sun was rising over Tampa, two deputies cautiously watched two buses pull up to the Falkenburg Road Jail and roll to a stop. The doors opened, but instead of hunched figures in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs exiting the vehicles, a well-dressed group of eager professionals emerged, including one man sporting his “business casual” suit and tie. “Who are they?” one deputy asked the other.” “Who else?” the other deputy replied. “It’s the Best Class Ever.” And so began Law Enforcement Day for Leadership Tampa’s Class of 2014.
LT 14 spent all of Law Enforcement Day at the Falkenburg Road and Orient Road jails – two of the only places in Hillsborough County where a person can get all of their basic needs met, including three meals a day, onsite medical care, and around-the-clock security, for only $81 per day. Unlike most jail visitors, LT 14 arrived voluntarily and departed without posting bond. In between, we were given a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the county’s detention facilities and the logistical challenges, policies, and procedures for supervising and housing the jails’ 2,000-plus detainees. We also rubbed shoulders with leaders of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa Police Department, learning about the law enforcement’s successes in reducing crime in our community and their resources for continuing that trend.
In preparation for Law Enforcement Day, class members rode shotgun with Tampa Police officers or Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies on their regular shifts, getting first-hand experience of what happens on the front lines of law enforcement. We gained a new respect for what these officers and deputies do on a daily basis to keep our community safe, which has resulted in a 65.8% reduction in crime in Tampa over the past ten years and the lowest crime rate in Hillsborough County since recording such statistics started in 1985.
On Law Enforcement Day, we got to see what awaits law-breakers after they are arrested. We were greeted at the Falkenburg facility by our Day Sponsor, Dale Schumacher, President and CEO of Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union (and LT alum), as well as our Day Chairs, Assistant Chief John Bennett of the Tampa Police Department and Major Mike Perotti of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, who accompanied us on our tours of the jails.
We first toured the Falkenburg Road Jail, which is the primary detention facility in the county for persons charged with a crime and unable to post bond and persons who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve less than a year. The sprawling 160-acre facility contains ten direct supervision housing units for the general population, each holding up to 70 inmates in an open unit with a single unarmed deputy stationed in the middle of the room. Falkenburg also has two confinement units, a program center for classes, and two medical infirmaries. Many of us were astonished to learn that the Falkenburg Road Jail is the largest provider of mental health services in the county.
We next visited the Orient Road Jail, which is where law enforcement takes all persons arrested in Hillsborough County who are not released on their own recognizance, about 140 persons each day. An older facility, the Orient Road Jail is mostly used for intake and housing inmates on a temporary basis before they are transported elsewhere or bonded out. After our tour, we enjoyed a lunch in the Command Center cafeteria joined by top brass from the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
After lunch, we went outside for tactical team demonstrations, which proved to be most memorable and electrifying (for a few) part of Law Enforcement Day. Yes, the most fearless members of LT 14 were revealed. Four class members, as well as our Vice Chair, volunteered to be harpooned in the back with a TASER and electrocuted for five long seconds. Those of us with lower pain thresholds volunteered to participate in the state-of-the-art training simulator. Duos of class members took turns as police officers confronting suspects in a variety of simulated crime scenarios, and many innocent people were shot. However, we gained added respect for the challenging situations facing law enforcement in real life.
We ended Law Enforcement Day in the Orient Road Jail Auditorium with a law enforcement panel discussion by TPD Chief Jane Castor, HCSO Colonel Ken David, Assistant Chief State’s Attorney Mike Sinacore, Felony Bureau Chief Chris Watson of the Public Defender’s Office, and Circuit Judge Christopher Nash. LT 14 members kept the panel busy with a steady stream of simulating questions.
Immediately following the panel discussion, LT 14 heard from a Homeland Security “Trio” of guest speakers: O.T. “Ollie” Gagnon, III and Special Agent Greg Mertz of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Supervisory Special Agent Michael McPherson of the FBI.
The take-away from panel discussion and guest speakers was the remarkable level of inter-department collaboration that actually exists, not only between the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, but also with their peers at the federal level. We are certainly fortunate to live in a community with such professional and effective law enforcement agencies. Law Enforcement Day gave us all a deeper understanding and appreciation for what law enforcement does to serve and protect our community.