Duties and Responsibilities of the Sheriff:As a constitutional officer, the sheriff in Florida is elected for a term of four years and is governed by the Florida Constitution and the law. The duties of the office are specifically laid out in Chapter 30 of the Florida Statute. Although the nature and scope of law enforcement have evolved with the rising population and changing times, the sheriff’s core of duties as outlined in Chapter 30 has remained fairly constant over the years.
The most recognizable aspect of the sheriff’s duties is law enforcement. The sheriff is chief law enforcement officer of the county – Chapter 30 specifically designates the sheriffs as the “conservators of the peace in their counties.” The sheriffs are also responsible for service of all legal process (writs, warrants, subpoenas, and other legal documents) directed to them by the courts or the county commissioners.
Other responsibilities of the sheriff include keeper of the county jail and provider of court security. In Pinellas County that means the sheriff is responsible for over 3,200 inmates at any one time. Additionally, every arrested person is booked at the Pinellas County jail facility located on 49th Street in Clearwater – nearly 50,000 persons are booked annually. At all court facilities, the bailiffs who provide court security are all certified law enforcement officers working within the sheriff’s office. The Pinellas County sheriff also provides several other countywide services to include Sexual Predator and Offender Tracking (SPOT), Flight, Civil Process, Fugitives and Child Protection Investigation.
To aid in executing these duties, the sheriff employs support staff who work throughout the agency in a variety of positions from computer programmer to fingerprint technician. Including law enforcement deputies, detention deputies, bailiffs, and support personnel, the total number of employees in the sheriff’s office – over 2,700 employees – positions it as one of Pinellas County’s top employers.
Voters approved the creation of Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department in 1912. The early Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reflected the rough and rural nature of the peninsula at that time. Bootlegging, moon shining, and gambling were daily occurrences and the Sheriff’s Office was kept busy running after a host of colorful criminals. Jail escapes were not uncommon. Newspapers reported how inmates sawed their way through the iron bars with tools smuggled in from the outside.From the early days until the late 1950’s, deputy sheriffs drove their own cars, wore plain clothes and carried their own weapons. The county was divided into several districts, each of which had a Justice of the Peace, to supervise legal matters. There was no centralized jail system. The Sheriff’s Office enforced the laws alongside the County Patrol and various municipal police departments. When judges ran short of citizens in a jury pool, deputy sheriffs were sent out to round up citizens to serve.
It wasn’t until 1959, during the tenure of Sheriff Don Genung, that the sheriff’s office took on a modern identity. The sheriff’s office absorbed the County Patrol in 1960. A year later, the Sheriff’s Office bought a fleet of 1961 Plymouth Fury automobiles to serve as patrol cars. Sheriff’s deputies were issued standardized uniforms. In fact the shoulder patch worn by deputies now remains unchanged from that time. A standardized training program was developed and Sheriff’s Office personnel were given the benefits of civil service, as well as health and retirement plans.Improvements in technology and law enforcement strategy continued to evolve during the following decades. Presently, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office consists of over 2,700 members in five major service bureaus:
- Patrol Operations
- Detention and Corrections
- Investigative Operations
- Support Services
- Inspections Bureau
Sheriff’s deputies have countywide jurisdiction, but mainly patrol the unincorporated areas and the cities under contract with the Sheriff’s Office for primary law enforcement services. Law enforcement services such as the K-9 Unit, Flight Section, and Marine Unit are available countywide. The Sheriff’s Child Protection Investigation Division (CPID), another countywide program, protects abused and neglected children. The Sheriff’s Office also took the lead in tracking sexual predators and offenders by dedicating a team of deputies to monitor the registration and activities of these individuals countywide.The Youth Services Section has grown to include School Resource Deputies in middle schools and high schools, and programs dealing with youthful offenders. The Sheriff’s Office has forged strong community partnerships by offering citizens numerous opportunities to learn more about law enforcement and personal safety. Citizens from around the county can participate in the Sheriff’s Citizens Academy, the Sheriff’s Advisory Board, Neighborhood Watch, and Volunteers In Partnership (VIPs).
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is one of the few law enforcement agencies in the nation to achieve the highest marks in three areas of professional accreditation: law enforcement, corrections and inmate health care.
The agency has pioneered the use of facial recognition technology in law enforcement and corrections and continues to be innovative in the automation of records, forensics science, and the security of property and evidence.
“Leading The Way For A Safer Pinellas” is the vision and will continue to be the direction of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.