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published: Saturday, August 04, 2012
Avon Park opts to go with HCSO
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- Members of the city council voted unanimously Saturday to approve a four-year contract with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement for the city.
The special meeting was held at the Avon Park Community Center, which was nearly filled.
Mayor Sharon Schuler made it clear she would tolerate no nonsense, and while there were occasional heavy sighs, whispers and applause, the meeting went calmly
Both the Police Benevolent Association and Sheriff Susan Benton made presentations, pro and con arguments for both sides. Representatives from Fort Meade reported they were satisfied with the service provided by the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
After about two hours of presentations and audience participation, the council made its decision.
Only Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray and Councilor Parke Sutherland spoke to the issue directly. Neither Terry Heston nor Paul Miller spoke.
Gray said she would be voting in favor of the contract, partly because she represents the Southside of the city and her constituents had urged the change. She also pointed to the more than $2 million the city would save in four years. Ultimately, she said, the most important point was that, "Citizens walk out their door and feel safe doing it."
Sutherland, too, referred to the financial savings as being an important part of his decision.
Sutherland asked the most questions during the presentations, seeking answers to questions and worries that city residents brought him. For example, he asked the mayor of Fort Meade if the city felt it had lost a sense of identity. The mayor replied that beyond having patrol cars without the city logo there was no change.
Benton presented her proposal, going over it point by point. For example, she told the police officers present that every one of them would have a job, even those who are not hired to fill the 16 Avon Park positions. Applicants would have to take the standard psychological tests required by statute and have a background check, but she was holding additional positions open so there were enough for all of the department's 22 sworn officers.
Initially, the former police officers would have to serve elsewhere in the county, she said, as sheriff deputies have to be familiar with the entire county. The deputies assigned to within city limits would be a permanent presence.
Coverage of the city would equal and surpass what the APPD can provide, Benton said, because the HCSO has the infrastructure to absorb the transition and would be providing the change of command supervision, all at the sheriff's cost.
A northern district of the county, from Schumacher Road north, will have its headquarters at the APPD building on Pleasant Street.
"That's where the city's saving is," Benton said. "We assume all of the supervision management."
Benton introduced the chain of command to the audience, including the sergeant (Manuel Gonzalez), lieutenant (Gasper Garcia) and captain (Randy Labelle, himself a former Avon Park police officer) who would be working in the city. Booker Johnson will be the major overseeing the Avon Park unit. Mark Schrader, as chief deputy, will also be available to the city residents. At least four of those named are residents of the Avon Park area.
Benton promised open access to the HCSO at all times.
HCSO (by: The Afterburner - 8/11/2012)
I stay out of the political debate since I am not a city resident. However, I have analyzed this transition and have came to the following conclusion. This could actually turn out to be a very good thing for the APPD Officers that transition to HCSO. They will have better equipment, more training opportunities, better pay/retirement, more chances at advancement, and also get to work other areas of the county at some point. Hell, almost half of the current HCSO Deputies and Dispatchers worked at APPD at one time. I was sad as anybody to see APPD disband and hoped they would have remained intact. Good luck to all and stay safe.
In Reply to Sonny (by: A.R.S. - 8/7/2012)
Sonny, according to Parke Sutherland 68% of the businesses on Main Street were in favor for HCSO to take over.
well said, (by: NFisher - 8/6/2012)
Well said Molina,
Thank You (by: Officer J. Molina - 8/5/2012)
I don’t put post on this type of forum, but since this is the only way to reach some citizens of Avon Park, here it goes (no replies necessary). I will like to take this moment to say thank you to the citizens of Avon Park that supported the police department. I'm on my eleventh year with the APPD and very proud of it. After I moved to Highlands County in 2001 after retiring from the U.S. Military, I started my career with the APPD with hopes to make it my second career. Since that is not going to happen, then I guess I will start my third career. To all the citizens that have made negative comments about the APPD Officers, it is ok to speak out your mind since we lived in the greatest country in the face of the earth with freedom of speech. But I can say that I cannot be more proud to worked at the APPD giving my 110% of commit...ment and dedication. I cannot speak for officers that did wrong, there are bad apples no matter where you go. And yes, even during my 22 year career in the military I saw and witnessed many bad apples. Those that did wrong, it was taking care off. So making an overall negative perception of the APPD because of the few bad apples, and not recognizing all officers that give the citizens of Avon Park the 110% dedication and professionalism, it really hurts. It is easier to complaint about something negative that something positive that we do on the daily basis, must be human nature. It was sad that for the last two months, I heard so many bad comments about the APPD’s past, even going fifteen plus years ago ( I was not even here yet), and again, what purpose does bringing the past does? We need to close the chapter, put the past behind us and go forward. By closing my comment, I will like to say to all to be safe, have an open mind, and look forward to your future. To all the citizens of Avon Park (doesn’t matter if they were pro or con APPD, hate us of love us), thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve your as your police officer for the last ten years.
What happens now? (by: RealisticRon - 8/5/2012)
So the AVPD is going to the Sheriff's Office, what happens to our fire department? What does the future hold for these loyal employees?
APPD (by: AP LADY - 8/5/2012)
I hope the HCSO drug unit slams the heck out of the southside, haunts them night and day, so maybe in a year they can get rid of the 500 or more that sit at the corner in that crap hole selling drugs causing nothing but trouble. put a fence around it and put a big sign up that says WELCOME TO NOWHERE!!!
ap opt to HCSO (by: Lynn Phillips - 8/5/2012)
NO POWER to City Hall or better yet to City Manager, oh no it maybe to the Sheriff, not we the people... Our Government and the President wants one COMMAND of policing and it is going to be that way...Hold on it's coming. Wake up America
APPD (by: from ap - 8/5/2012)
This and I am done . What a sad day for APPD and the City of Avon Park .
Disgusted (by: Sonny - 8/5/2012)
This is just another step in the wrong direction for Avon Park. The Sebring residents already say that Avon Park will soon lose its identity as the city continues to get smaller. before long AP will just be a low income dump for the county. I cant believe anyone with any common sense at all would use Ft Meade as an example, Really ft meade, its a dump with nothing but poverty!!!! I will soon be moving my downtown AP business elsewhere because I dont want my storefront of more than 40 yrs to be in a Getto!!! Avon Park city council you are making a huge mistake, the problems with the police dept are caused by poor management by the city and you are just running from the problem.
Avon Police Officers (by: James Geer - 8/5/2012)
A bad mistake was voted in to replace the Avon Park Police it is time to replace the council that voted it in and throw out the the city manager.
Sheriff (by: ap citizen - 8/5/2012)
Rowan for sheriff that would be good stuff
Supervision management (by: salinas - 8/5/2012)
Too bad previous chiefs made it impossible for future ones to lead. Its nearly impossible to get the public's trust after so many years of mistrust. Even if only one casued it. I know there is no perfection anywhere, but in law enforcement your reputation predeeds you.
Avon Park Police (by: Sam the black man - 8/4/2012)
Now the sheriff is going to clean that town up...God Bless Benton
AP Officers (by: 15yr old wiser than APPD - 8/4/2012)
You officers can't lie, you know your goal is to be a Highlands County Sherriff so why be a hypocrite you know want more money if you wanted to farther your career you let the change happen if you fought it,you never wanted to be a officer in the first place.
Its about time! (by: fred - 8/4/2012)
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