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Wakulla Times article-Sharing a little about the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office-May 2011

Sharing a little about the Wakulla County Sheriff’s office with Wakulla.

By Wakulla County Sheriff David Harvey

This month I have decided to try something a little different for the Wakulla Area Times. Rather than writing about one subject area, I’ve decided to discuss several things the Wakulla County Sheriff’s office has done since the last article was published in the Times.

Over the years I have selected a topic, such as county crime statistics last month, and written something I feel is pertinent and interesting in the law enforcement field.
I want to give the public an opportunity to see what we have been working on during the past month as we not only strive to Keep Wakulla Safe, but provide the best law enforcement at the lowest price to taxpayers. We have many dedicated members of our staff who are involved in many aspects of the WCSO, not just investigating crimes.

WCSO COLOR GUARD

Four of our dedicated law enforcement officers represented the sheriff’s office, Wakulla County and themselves during the 2011 Springtime Tallahassee Parade on April 2. Deputy Will Hudson, Detective Rob Giddens, Deputy Rachel Oliver and Deputy Ben Steinle volunteered to lead Florida Governor Rick Scott and his wife Ann on the parade route from Brevard to Gaines streets.

Detective Giddens carried the American flag and Deputy Oliver carried the Florida flag while Deputy Hudson and Deputy Steinle carried rifles. The four deputies marched the entire route in step and were warmly greeted by the crowd along the sides of Monroe Street as the announcer told the audience that the three men were all U.S. Marines and Deputy Oliver was a former ROTC participant.

Captain Billy Jones supervises the Color Guard and he walked the parade route along with WCSO Public Information Officer Keith Blackmar. Deputy Hudson and Deputy Steinle are both members of the Traffic Unit while Giddens serves as a WCSO detective and Deputy Oliver is part of the road patrol division.

I was proud to see four members of my office get selected to accompany Gov. Scott along the parade route. Gov. Scott received mixed reactions from the crowd along the parade route, but the emotions of the parade did not distract from how well received the WCSO Color Guard was by residents of Wakulla County who attended the parade and waved at the unit along with members of other communities. As Detective Giddens displayed the American flag many people along the parade route saluted. Prior to the parade and at the end of the festivities, Det. Giddens treated the two flags with the respect they deserved as the flags were covered at all times until the parade commenced.

The four staff members looked polished and professional in their dress uniforms. The foursome also had the opportunity to pose for pictures with Gov. Scott and the First Lady and Springtime Tallahassee organizers just outside the Governor’s Mansion. I am proud of you all!

AR 15 CLASSES

Changing gears from participating in parades to practicing the shooting of firearms, I want to discuss the Basic AR 15 or Automatic Rifle class at the WCSO Training Center and Range on March 26.
This class is held periodically under the leadership of Lt. Fred Nichols. The class is limited to 10 students who want to learn about and shoot automatic weapons. I spoke to the March 23 class about firearm safety and the importance of training.

Firearm nomenclature was discussed as the men in the class learned about safe use of automatic weapons and cleaned and assembled the weapons. In addition to the classroom training, the men got down and dirty on the ground and got the feel of shooting 200 rounds of ammunition.

The men finished their class by getting a feel for shooting a fully automatic M 16 as they fired upon targets. These weapons are used in competitions and our crew learned sportsmanship while they also enjoyed the feel of the automatic weapon.

In addition to Lt. Fred Nichols, Deputy Ed Tyer and volunteer Scott Synar led the class. If this type of program sounds like something you would enjoy, contact Major Larry Massa at 745-7105 to see when the next class will be held. A class was held April 23 and more are planned.

PUBLIC SERVICE OFFICERS

The Public Service Officer (PSO) Program is something that is near and dear to my heart. I am very aware that budgets are tight because tax revenue collections remain lower than in past years. As a response to budget concerns, I asked volunteer Reserve Captain Jimmy Keen to create the volunteer PSO program in 2010.

We have selected six PSOs as the first graduating class who volunteer their time to assist deputy sheriff’s patrol around Wakulla County. They are not armed and do not have arrest powers, but they do have the power and ability to assist sworn deputies and give the WCSO additional manpower without having a negative impact on the budget.

I am very pleased at the outstanding work of Everett Griggs, Nancy Watts, Raymond Hubbird, Wayne Hicks, Rusty Miller and Sabrina Roberts. The excellent training and superior dedication have made the program successful. The ability of the PSOs to respond to non-violent complaints allows our sworn deputies to be free to respond to more serious calls. We do not want to become a county where we do not have the manpower to respond to each and every call from our citizens. Our citizens are important to us and we want to speak to everyone individually. Some Florida counties have been forced to take some complaints over the telephone. I treat the sheriff’s office like a business and I want to make sure we always have contacts with our citizens and provide the best customer service possible.

With this in mind, we recently held another orientation for more PSOs. We hope to be able to put as many as 15 PSOs on the road to assist our road patrol and Keep Wakulla Safe!
During the month of March, Captain Keen and the six PSOs donated 520.7 hours of volunteer time. Based on a $15 per hour salary, the work of the PSOs saved Wakulla County taxpayers $7,810.50 during the month of March. Based on that type of dedication and service, PSOs will save the taxpayers more than $90,000 over the course of a year. Creating a larger PSO unit will make an even bigger difference in the amount of money they save the county.

We keep track of what our PSOs are doing and during March they worked residential and business checks, citizen welfare checks, had many citizen contacts, worked special details such as securing the perimeter of crime scenes, traffic accidents, traffic control, abandoned vehicle investigations and more.

A variation of the PSO program has worked in a number of other larger Florida counties and I am committed to making it work in Wakulla.

MURDER INVESTIGATION

On Wednesday, March 30, FSU Seminole Boosters President Andy Miller and I were filming a live segment on the WTXL television network morning show to promote the upcoming Houston Taff Memorial Golf Tournament that will benefit the Wakulla Seminole Boosters Scholarship fund for FSU student athletes.

During the course of the program with host Abbey Phillips, I was contacted by my staff regarding a home invasion double homicide that was called in to our 911 emergency telephone line. We don’t have many homicides in Wakulla County and we don’t have any murder cases that have gone unsolved.

My staff investigated the crime scene along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Crime Scene Unit and the State Attorney’s office. Crime scenes are often difficult for the men and women of law enforcement to investigate and the Field Loop scene was no different.

But our investigators did a great job in not only investigating the two murders but assisting one of the victims survive her ordeal so that she can go on with her life after recovering at the hospital. We were challenged by Mother Nature as we worked quickly to collect evidence with news on the radio that a strong storm was headed our way during the investigation. Outdoor evidence was collected before the rains came and forced us to work from under umbrellas and tents.

It takes a special type of individual to investigate gruesome crime scene and we had top notch investigators out there on the humid and rainy day. We all pray for continued improvement, both mentally and physically, for Ms. McKenzie and little Layne.

Our suspect was caught a few hours after the crime was committed in Georgia and our detectives worked hand-in-hand with FDLE and Georgia law enforcement officials in bringing our suspect back to Florida to face the murder charges.

To everyone involved in the case, thank you for a job well done.

MAJOR MAURICE LANGSTON AT FBI NATIONAL ACADEMY

Finally, the article brings me to my final subject area, Major Maurice Langston and the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. Major Langston was recent accepted into the educational program which is hosted by the academy through the University of Virginia. The academy gives law enforcement officials the opportunity to continue their education with an intense 10 week course that helps them become better at their jobs and gives them an opportunity to share what they have learned with everyone here at the sheriff’s office.

Major Langston has been writing a blog of his experiences at the FBI Academy. You can read about his daily life at www.wcso.org or visit the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. All of the blog entries are numbered so that the reader can follow them in sequence.

We have three individuals in the office who have completed the FBI Academy program. They include: Captain Chris Savary, Lt. Bruce Ashley and me. When Major Langston returns to our office in June he will become the fourth member of the staff to benefit from the insight provided by high level collegiate courses that address every facet of law enforcement issues.

 

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