The union noted that Alachua County deputies are leaving to work for other law enforcement agencies, including the University of Florida Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as “a number of other agencies that offer better benefits and compensation.”

Law Enforcement Union Claims Alachua County Sheriff’s Personnel Policies Are Leaving The Community At Risk

ALACHUA COUNTY, FL. -The law enforcement union representing employees of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office are trying to rally the public to force Sheriff Clovis Watson back to the bargaining table.

The North Central Florida Police Benevolent Association created a website called KeepAlachuaSafe.org to note how Watson’s personnel decisions are putting public safety at risk.

“While many Sheriff’s Offices in the State of Florida and the communities they serve have realized the importance of recruiting and retaining the best-qualified men and women to join their ranks, Alachua County has experienced a disturbing trend,” the union said on the website.

The union noted that Alachua County deputies are leaving to work for other law enforcement agencies, including the University of Florida Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as “a number of other agencies that offer better benefits and compensation.”
Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson

The union noted that Alachua County deputies are leaving to work for other law enforcement agencies, including the University of Florida Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as “a number of other agencies that offer better benefits and compensation.”

“What do all these agencies have that our Sheriff’s Office doesn’t? The leadership of those agencies have prioritized retention and recruitment, while Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. has not.”

“The numbers don’t lie,” the union argues. And as it explains, since Watson took office in January 2021, more than 200 employees have left the Sheriff’s Office in search of greener pastures.

For example, since January 2021, the Sheriff’s Office has lost:

  • 18 dispatchers while hiring only 1
  • 52 jail detention officers, while hiring only 13
  • 40 deputy sheriffs, while hiring only 14
  • 63 support staff members, while hiring only 35

“Our uniform patrol division is operating at critical staffing levels more often than not and the Court Security Bureau is at or below critical staffing levels daily<” the4 union maintains.

“These staffing shortages have a direct impact on public safety and can potentially delay our response times during life and death situations. Given that overall crime has risen nearly 8% in Alachua County last year, the public must ask themselves if we can really continue to do more with less?”

Continuing, the union argued that given the threat to publie safety, the sheriff “should be doing everything possible to bolster our ranks and provide a career path that both retains and attracts highly qualified and dedicated men and women, who are willing to risk their lives to keep our communities safe.”

“Instead, the Sheriff has turned his back on us.”

The union voted down Watson’s proposed deal in October and recently filed an unfair labor practice complaint against him because he has not resumed negotiations since the fall.

“The public should care about Sheriff Watson Jr.’s commitment to investing in Alachua County Sheriff’s Office personnel because maintaining and recruiting highly qualified men and women to serve on the front lines of public safety will have a significant impact on our ability to keep our communities safe,” the union continued.

“As crime continues to rise, along with population growth, more manpower is needed to fully protect and serve all of our fellow citizens. One major incident or violent crime can take a significant portion of our patrol officers off the streets for several hours, leaving numerous neighborhoods without law enforcement protection.”

“We urge Sheriff Watson Jr. to negotiate a fair and equitable contract that reflects the needs of our officers, while building a strong career path for the future of our Sheriff’s Office,” the union’s statement concluded.

“We also call on the citizens of Alachua County to send a message to Sheriff Watson Jr. and our County Commissioners to support safe staffing levels at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. It’s time to offer competitive benefits packages to retain the best men and women in our department, who keep our county safe each and every day. And it’s time for Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. to invest in public safety!”

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