To most of the world Orange County Florida did not exist until the man who drew that cartoon mouse drained several hundred acres of swamp land and built what quickly evolved into one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. The fact of the matter is Orange County and the Sheriff’s Office has existed for over 163 years. While much of the county’s documented history has been lost, distorted with the passage of time, and consumed in a devastating fire at the county courthouse, enough is known about the years gone by to paint a colorful profile of Orange County, its Sheriff’s Office, and the 28 men who have served as Sheriff of Orange County.
It was on January 31, 1845 that Orange County was carved out of a vast territorial and largely undeveloped region of the state known as Mosquito County. The county lived in relative obscurity until the citrus industry put it on the map and made it one of the country’s most prolific and best known orange and grapefruit producing regions. Snowbirds from the northern tier states would ride the railroads, follow the sweet scent of the orange blossoms, and find their way to the area while a handful of commercial concerns associated with America’s fledgling space program would be the first signs of the explosive growth that we now associate with Orange County. The mouse, the whale, and the folks who make the movies sealed the deal to put the county on the world map as one of its premier tourist destinations. But…. where did it all begin for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office?
During the state’s territorial period between 1821 and 1845 a United States Marshal, appointed by the president, was in charge of the law of the land. In turn, the Marshals appointed deputies and sheriffs to police the vast and untamed region. Thomas Addison has the distinction of being the earliest known sheriff in the East Florida Region. His exact dates of service are unknown but he was believed to be sheriff at the time the Spanish relinquished control of Florida and it became a United States Territory on July 21, 1821. St. Johns County was formed about this time from those lands east of the Suwannee River and Colonel John Forbes was appointed Marshal for East and West Florida. Several prominent men who resided near St. Augustine, Florida, in what was then considered to be the population center of East Florida, served terms as Sheriff of St. Johns County under the colonel.
James Hanham was the first man known to hold the office, serving during 1821. On December 29, 1824 Mosquito County was created and a plantation house on the Tomoka River was the designated site of the county court until a permanent county seat could be established. The Sheriff of St. Johns County served as Sheriff of Mosquito County during this period.
Squire Streeter and Waters Smith served as Sheriff of St. Johns and Mosquito County from 1827 to 1833 until William Henry Williams was appointed to be Orange County’s first Sheriff. Prior to Williams taking office the sole representative of law and order for Mosquito County was David R. Dunham. Dunham served as a Peace Justice in 1832. In January, 1835 the Mosquito County seat was established in New Smyrna but Indian occupations in the region forced it to be relocated to St. Augustine.
War between settlers on the Florida frontier and the Seminole Indians dominated the state’s history from 1835 until the eve of the Civil War. Sheriff Williams and the Sheriff’s who followed him served double duty as peace officers and militiamen defending the frontier settlements. The war known as the Second Seminole Indian War festered from 1835 until peace was declared in 1842. During this period there were ten military outposts and untold numbers of Seminole Indians in Mosquito County.
Then, as more and more people found their way to the Sunshine State, Mosquito County and the surrounding counties began to grow in terms of population and splinter into smaller counties. A year after Florida attained statehood the face of law enforcement in Central Florida began to change. In 1845 the Orange County Sheriff’s Office was born and William Henry Williams became the agency’s first Sheriff and the principle law enforcement officer for a wide open, rough, and tough piece of the state. His duties were diverse, his office was unfunded, and, by all accounts, Sheriff Williams never enjoyed the benefit of a regular paycheck.
Since the state’s “reimbursement system” was complex, slow, and complicated by the fact there was no stable currency, a major portion of the Sheriff’s income was derived from the fees he would collect in the course of his duties. The county’s number one cop received no formal training but rather relied on published directives. Maintaining law and order in the frontier known as Orange County was, for lack of a better description, a learn as you go endeavor. The job was dangerous, thankless, and it even carried the burden of being prosecuted in court if it was determined that the sheriff failed to carry out all of his duties. For any or all of these reasons “many good men quit.”
A former New Yorker, John Simpson, succeeded Williams on March 19, 1846 and served in that capacity until October 28, 1851. In addition to the dubious task of maintaining law and order in the county, Simpson was also the county’s tax assessor and tax collector.
Elijah Watson, a cabinetmaker from South Carolina pinned on the badge of Orange County Sheriff in March, 1852. He too wore the many hats that came with the office until he resigned as Sheriff on May 19, 1855 to become the first sheriff of Volusia County. Jonathon Clay Stewart stepped up to the plate to replace Watson on July 7, 1855. Stewart had already served in the Florida legislature from 1843-1845 and was an Orange County Commissioner between 1849 and 1853 before pinning on the star and becoming the county’s top cop. During Stewart’s tenure as Sheriff the nation fell into the quagmire of the great Civil War and Florida seceded from the Union. Stewart entered the Confederate Army at the rank of Captain. It is reported he died on November 24, 1862 in Winchester, Virginia after being captured and forced to endure the harsh conditions he encountered during his captivity.
Andrew J. Simmons, a cattleman from Southeast Orange County, was appointed to replace Stewart when he entered the Confederate Army. Like his predecessor, Simmons dutifully marched off to war and was killed in the line of duty five months later in Knoxville, Tennessee where he was buried. Florida’s Governor, Harrison Reed, appointed Issac Winegard to replace the fallen soldier. Sheriff Winegard had previously served on the County Commission and as a Justice of the Peace before being appointed Sheriff. Winegard was elected Sheriff and resumed his office in November, 1858 and continued to serve until December 21, 1865.
John Ivey was appointed Sheriff/Tax Assessor/Tax Collector under Provisional Governor William Marvin following the Civil War. Prior to his service as Sheriff,Ivey was elected Justice of the Peace and Acting Coroner for the county. Ivey’s term as Sheriff was short lived when he reportedly resigned from office when he was called upon to hang a man convicted of murder saying, “since he could not give life, he would not be responsible for taking it.”
Johnathan Stewart was elected Sheriff during a time when the county’s records were in shambles shrouding much of his tenure as Florida’s top cop in a cloak of mystery. He might have been considered the model for Mayberry’s Sheriff Taylor as he reportedly never carried a gun and had an aversion for violence.
Sheriff John Mizell would be the next man to fill the shoes of Sheriff of Orange County following his appointment to the office on July 24, 1868. He would be the county’s first Sheriff after Florida was admitted back into the Union following the Civil War and he would be the first and only Sheriff to lose his life in the line of duty. There have been a number of stories surrounding the demise of Sheriff Mizell but all of the accounts relate to the Sheriff being ambushed by a group of men when he had set out with his young son and deputy to serve a warrant for cattle rustling. Mizell was mortally wounded in a volley of gunfire as he crossed a stream in remote Orange County.
The Sheriff reportedly died in his son’s arms asking that his death not be avenged while the deputy raced back to town for assistance. The sheriff’s final wish apparently fell on deaf ears. A posse tracked down the man responsible for his death and allegedly tied him to a plowshare and tossed him over the side of a boat. When the killer failed to sink the posse finished what they had set out to do with a volley of gunfire. Justice was swift on the Florida frontier.
David Bradwell Stewart was appointed to replace Sheriff Mizell on June 4, 1870. He assumed office at a time when the county’s population had reached 2,195 residents and is regarded as one of the first in the area to make a few dollars by growing citrus. Historical records take note of the fact that Stewart actually resigned from office twice because his conscience would not allow him to carry out “the stern decrees of law enforcement.” Florida’s Governor, Harrison Reed, finally accepted Stewart’s resignation and appointed local cattleman Isaac Wilsey Winegord to the post. Records show that Winegord’s tenure as Sheriff was short lived, reported to be seven months, due to health concerns.
Governor Reed would next appoint Arthur Speer to be Winegord’s successor to a position that was being regarded as an “unhealthy occupation.” Speer’s uneventful term as Sheriff continued until June, 1873 when the state’s next governor appointed William Patrick to replace the short-term sheriff. Patrick also had uneventful term as Sheriff where he was better known for his skills as a business man and his vast landholdings in the county. Four years later, on January 27, 1877, Sheriff Thomas “Long Tom” Shine would be appointed Sheriff of Orange County. Sheriff Shine would serve until February 15, 1885 when Julias Caesar Anderson took Office.
Sheriff Anderson served a much different county than his predecessors. The railroads were finding there way to the state and were considered to be an active player in the county’s rapidly growing population which grew to 6,618 by 1880 and more than doubled to 14,400 by 1885. The City of Winter Park was born and sidewalks paved the way from downtown Orlando to the nearby railroad station. Could this have been the unheralded birth of the snowbirds?
John Henry Vick, a prominent local citrus grower, assumed the office of Sheriff following the death of Sheriff Anderson and held the post until he was replaced in 1909 to focus on his orange groves. During his service as Sheriff he saw the county’s population begin to creep back up to 13,591 after it dropped in the wake of a string of crop crippling freezes in previous years. Vick saw the beginning of a housing boom that led to houses being numbered with street addresses.
James Kirkwood replaced Sheriff Vick on January 4, 1909. The county’s 17th Sheriff would fall gravely ill while in office and passed away while on duty on May 1, 1913. He would be replaced by John Francis Gordon on the day of Kirkwood’s death after serving as a Deputy Sheriff since 1909. Gordon served as Sheriff until he left office to become a detective with the Orlando Police Department and ultimately getting back into the booming citrus industry until he passed away on February 26, 1953. Gordon reportedly had a 29 year career in law enforcement and has the distinction of being the first person to retire under the City of Orlando’s Civil Service Pension Plan.
Frank Karel would be the 18th man to pin on the star of the county’s top cop in on January 3, 1921 and hold the position until January 3, 1933. Karel became Sheriff again on January 4, 1937 and served until January 6, 1941. He interrupted his term as Sheriff to serve as Chief of the Orlando Police Department until he resigned to run unopposed for Sheriff in 1936. Sheriff Karel implemented the agency’s first fingerprint department at a cost of $1,200 which he reportedly paid for out of his own pocket. Karel’s tenure as Sheriff spanned the Depression era and as reported by one of his deputies and future Sheriffs, Dave Star, Sheriff Karel had more than his fair share of murders and moonshine.
Harry Hand, the man who served as Sheriff between January 3, 1933 and January 4, 1937 during Sheriff Karel’s term as Orlando Police Chief had a different law enforcement experience. A written account of crime in the county during his term as Sheriff stated, “There were no kidnappings, no bank robberies, no stick-ups, no riots, or looting, or con games. He was said to have kept Orange County virtually free of crooks during his term of office.” Sheriff Hand and Sheriff Karel were highly regarded for their ethics and competency leading a local editorialist to write when Hand replaced Karel, “Harry Hand is but the exchange of one good man for another. Karel has made a good Sheriff… honest and conscientious… Hand is a man whose personal life brings credit to the office.”
James Allen Black, Orange County’s 22nd Sheriff, assumed control of the agency on January 6, 1941 and served until January 3, 1949. The avid outdoorsman and semi professional baseball player’s tenure as Sheriff was portrayed as a time when “murder was rare, cattle rustling was common, and deputies were paid $3.50 for each arrest they made,” on the pages of the Orlando Sentinel. He, in fact, only had to deal with four murders during his time in office. The only equipment he and his men had were their guns and five patrol cars. Radios didn’t arrive until later in his term and only eight of his deputies had them. A deputy’s salary averaged about $300 a month which came out of annual budget of no more than $90,000. Changing times would be on the horizon when Sheriff Black lost his bid for re-election to David Star in the 1948 election.\
History would say that Dave Star is arguably the county’s most popular Sheriff… he unquestionably enjoyed the longest term in office serving between January 3, 1949 through December 31, 1971. Among the many accolades that Sheriff Star received during his 22 year term and the years that followed his departure from office, he is credited with bringing the agency into the realm of 20th Century Policing. His reputation for having one of the most modern and well-equipped agencies in the nation was backed up with the implementation of a modern Aviation Section, mobile crime scene investigation units, motorized rescue boats, lie detectors, rapid fingerprint detection, “drunk-o-meters,” and radar speed detection units. His deputies would wear smart looking uniforms and drive polished cars with distinctive markings that enhanced the public’s perception that their primary law enforcement agency was a professional, spit and polished, no-nonsense police force. Many still say that Dave Star was ahead of this time.
As a sheriff he was known for his boundless energy and a knack for using the news media to the advantage of his agency. You would find him on a crime scene one minute and leading a parade atop his beloved horse the next. Many would ask, “When does this man sleep?” His reputation among his peers led him to be named president of the National Sheriff’s Association in 1957, an honor almost unheard of for a law man from the south. He was the real deal in every respect and was highly respected by the citizens he served and the deputies who served him.
Sheriff Starr was 71 years old when he voluntarily retired. He set a high bar of excellence for the third generation lawman picked by Florida’s Governor, Reubin Askew, to fill Starr’s big shoes. Mel Colman not only filled those shoes, he took off running in them.
Mel Colman was indeed a seasoned law enforcement professional in every respect and brought a great deal of experience to the Sheriff’s Office when he assumed control of the agency in December 1971. But it will be Mel Colman who will be remembered for his insight and understanding that an effective Sheriff and his top staff would have to be businessmen and administrators in addition law enforcement officers. It would be Sheriff Colman who would first see acre upon acre of swamp land and citrus groves make way for the hotels and attractions that would lure tourists from all over the world to Orange County. Quite simply, it was Mel Colman who understood and prepared for the myriad of challenges that would accompany the county’s exponential population boom and international tourism.
Sheriff Colman earned his legacy of transforming the agency into a modern, metropolitan crime fighting organization by enhancing the training afforded to his deputies, bringing an outdated and archaic records system into the world of today, and working to update many of the outdated facilities used by the Sheriff’s Office.
He was regarded as a highly respected and competent administrator which helped him secure the budgets that enabled him to meet his goals and objectives. He is credited with implementing a Public Information Office and providing the latest technology for the agency’s Aviation unit, SWAT Team, Bomb Disposal Unit, and Crime Scene Units. He implemented career development programs for his employees and improved the pay scale for his deputies. The agency grew from 300 to 900 employees under his watch and the agency budget increased from $3.2 million to over $40 million, 40 percent of which went to operate the county jail which was under the purview of the Sheriff’s Office at the time.
Lawson L. Lamar ran against and defeated Sheriff Colman in the county’s 1980 general election. Sheriff Lamar was a prosecutor and Chief Assistant State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit when he was elected Sheriff. During his two terms as Sheriff, ending in December, 1988 after running for and being elected State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, Sheriff Lamar continued to make the changes that would enable and equip the agency to deal with the county’s rapid growth that showed no signs of letting up.
Sheriff Lamar continued to make improvements and update the training offered to all of his personnel operating under the simple premise, “The way you train is the way you perform.” He oversaw the construction of a firearms and training range that took deputies out of a sandbox filled with sandspurs and into a facility that was long considered to be the best in the southeast. He continued to update the agency’s facilities and sent a strong message to felons who would flee the county to avoid prosecution by creating an in-house airborne extradition service with aircraft seized from drug dealers. He was the first to recognize law enforcement’s stake in protecting the multitudes of tourist who came to Central Florida each year with the creation of a specialized Tourist Policing Unit and basing them in the heart of the tourist corridor where tourist related issues could be immediately and effectively addressed. He went after criminals on all levels and had a keen understanding that the basis for much of the serious criminal activity that occurred in the county had its roots in a street level drug transaction. To this day he is regarded as a visionary and a man who enjoyed a great deal of success in dealing with the issues that come with an area that continues to grow in geometric proportions.
Of his numerous accomplishments many still say that he was able to enjoy a tremendous amount of success while keeping a lid on the escalating cost of providing law enforcement services. He led Orange County in crime reduction among the state’s largest policing jurisdictions for seven years and was able to do so at the lowest per capita costs. Sheriff Lamar, to this day, says the success he enjoyed was “the direct result of the personal dedication and enthusiasm demonstrated by each member of the Sheriff’s Office.” He fondly refers to the men and women who served him during his tenure as Sheriff as his “Number One Team.”
Walt Gallagher would be the next man to serve as Sheriff of Orange County. He was the personification of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” The former Naval aviator and Marine helicopter pilot served nine years with the Winter Park Police Department and banked another 12 years with the Sheriff’s Office, earning the rank of Captain before his successful run for Sheriff in 1989. Prior to becoming the county’s “top cop” Sheriff Gallagher was the project officer who instituted the DUI/BAT Mobiles, the K-9 Corps, and the Mounted Patrol.
Like his immediate predecessors, Sheriff Gallagher faced the enormous task of dealing with the continued growth ushered in by major tourist attractions that continued to pop up in and around the county. Orange County became an international tourist stop during Sheriff Gallagher’s watch. He was quick to bring on an additional 300 deputies to deal with the issues associated with growth and quietly, with little fanfare, played a key role in the passage of the state’s Career Service Law for deputies up to the rank of Lieutenant.
Sheriff Gallagher realized the complexion of the county was changing and many of the problems associated with large urban areas were beginning to fester in Central Florida. He paid close attention to many of the lessons being learned, often the hard way, by some of the police chiefs in the country’s larger urban areas. The concept of Community Oriented Policing got his attention to the point where he brought it to the Sheriff’s Office. He assigned deputies to a specific portion of the county and whenever feasible he let them patrol on bikes, foot, and even horseback. He wanted his deputies to have direct contact with the citizens they served as much as possible much like those good old days when a cop walked a beat. The concept proved to be successful as it allowed deputies to know the areas they policed and the people who lived in those communities and often led to quick resolution of criminal activity.
Sheriff Gallagher was also the architect for the agency’s fledgling Gang Suppression Unit during a time when many law enforcement agencies were reluctant to admit that gangs existed in their community. He recognized the value of looking out for kids and maintained a number of programs designed to keep children some of them “at risk” kids, out of serious trouble before they could get in it. He championed cultural awareness and to this day remains extremely proud of the fact that he had “selected, trained, and placed on duty more deputies than in any other four year period in the history of the Sheriff’s Office.”
Kevin Beary became Orange County’s 27th Sheriff in January, 1993 and retired from office on January 6, 2009 at the conclusion of his fourth term. Sheriff Beary, a third generation law enforcement officer, began his career in Florida with the Melbourne Police Department in 1976. He found his way to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office a year later and once he got both feet on the ground in Uniform Patrol he never looked back and never stopped running.
Prior to assuming command of the agency, Sheriff Beary was dealt several assignments with the Sheriff’s Office. He served on the agency’s SWAT Team, ultimately working his way up to command the elite unit. He also has spent time as a detective, served on the agency’s Tactical Unit, commanded the agency’s Specialized Patrol Unit, and was the evening Watch Commander for the entire county. He left the agency for four years to command the SWAT Team at the Kennedy Space Center until he launched his successful campaign and was elected Sheriff.
Sheriff Beary was at the helm of the agency the day life in the United States changed…. forever. Before the smoke had even cleared following the horrific attack on the World Trade Center the Sheriff recognized the magnitude of the attack. He had studied terrorism for years and knew that the county’s status as an international tourist destination and the number of “American icons” in the region could make Orange County a potential target for a similar attack.
Hours after the attack on New York City he created a Homeland Security Division by adding to the duties and responsibilities of his Crime Prevention Unit. It was clear to the Sheriff that crime prevention now had international implications. The decisive move led to a number of in house programs designed to enhance not only the safety and security of the citizens of Orange County but the entire state as well. His efforts did not go unnoticed as agencies across the nation looked at what Orange County was doing to counter the threat of domestic terrorism.
His high energy, aggressive, and outspoken approach to managing the agency continues even as his career as Sheriff winds down. He is known for thinking outside the box and willing to employ new, innovative, and to his critics, controversial methods to deal with the unprecedented spike in the nation’s violent crime rate… a spike that he often warned was coming, especially as it pertains to violent juvenile crime, years before the numbers began to substantiate his concerns.
Many would acknowledge that juvenile crime and the problems associated with it were high on the list of Sheriff Beary’s concerns for the county. He would often say that children are a community’s most valuable resource and everything possible should be done to turn kids, especially those determined to be “at risk ”, around before they could ride further down a lawless highway and find themselves in serious trouble. When one of his first juvenile intervention programs, a Sheriff’s Office sponsored boot camp, didn’t produce the results he had hoped for (high recidivism rate) Sheriff Beary implemented a Juvenile Arrest and Monitor Unit that would be tasked with keeping close tabs, and often “hands on” contact, with the county’s worst and most violent juvenile offenders. The approach was unique and critics scoffed that it would not work. They were wrong. The program was recognized as one of the top three juvenile programs in America and was soon adopted by a number of law enforcement agencies across the country.
Sheriff Beary’s continued support of a number of in-house programs such as DARE, GREAT, BADGE, and the Police Athletic League continue to pay long term dividends in juvenile crime reduction and provide lessons and decision making skills that children will carry with them for a lifetime. These programs coupled with the agency’s commitment to the School Resource Program are a source of great pride for Sheriff Beary.
Sheriff Beary has long recognized the value of the support of the citizens he serves and enlisting their support through a number of volunteer opportunities within the agency. He implemented a volunteer parking enforcement unit, comprised mostly of retired law enforcement officers, to handle the day to day parking complaints and parking enforcement details that would otherwise take a deputy off the road and away from a more serious issue.
He implemented the Citizens on Patrol (COPS) program that puts trained civilian volunteers in radio equipped agency vehicles to patrol their own communities. These mobile volunteers are a tremendous asset to the agency and while they have no arrest powers they often serve as an extra set of eyes and ears as they assume some of the responsibility of keeping their neighborhoods safe. Other volunteer programs include one designed to provide assistance to the county’s senior citizens, a mounted Sheriff’s Posse, a volunteer airboat squad for quick disaster response, the agency’s Task Force, and volunteer support at various locations in and around the agency continue to prove just how invaluable volunteerism in the public sector continues to be.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office earned state, national, and international accreditation under the direction of Sheriff Beary, something he is extremely proud of. To achieve accreditation a law enforcement agency must undergo a stringent review of its facilities and equipment as well as its written policies and procedures by a team of assessors. The fact that the Sheriff’s Office can display the CALEA and CFA seals of approval sends the world a pretty strong statement that the agency is doing its job to the highest of standards and it is doing it right. Sheriff Beary takes a great deal of pride in knowing that the agency earned accreditation under his watch and the fact that it continues to operate within the high standards demanded by the accrediting agencies.
Despite his successes and the fact that the agency remains one of the most highly respected law enforcement organizations in the country Sheriff Beary has never been one to rest on his laurels. During his tenure as Sheriff he continuously looks for ways to enhance the working conditions of his employees and ways to upgrade or improve the equipment they have to do their jobs.
In recent years the agency has seen dramatic improvements in the firepower carried by deputies to include the transition from Berretta 9mm handguns to Glock .45’s. The agency’s specialty units are continuously evaluated to ensure that they have adequate equipment and firepower to deal with the violent career criminals that are becoming more commonplace on the streets. The agency’s ability to respond to critical incidents or major disasters in or out of the county has been enhanced with the addition of a state of the art mobile command post, mobile cooking and lodging facilities, and better communications systems and equipment. The agency’s Aviation Unit, always a key player in day to day operations or critical incidents, has been provided with new, state of the art equipment and aircraft that enables them to provide instant downlinked intelligence information to ground units. Today the unit is operational and mission ready, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Under the Beary administration the agency has also enjoyed some much needed renovations or improvements to the key facilities. Sheriff Beary often pointed out that the agency had simply outgrown an old and outdated operations center and several of the other units were scattered in various leased properties around the county. He knew the county could actually save money if most of the agency’s functions could be housed in a centralized building. The Sheriff was able to locate an abandoned and decaying building at the intersection of the John Young Parkway and West Colonial Drive that, at a fraction of the cost of constructing a new facility, could be renovated and designed to house most of the agencies key functions in one location.
Today the Sheriff and a number of the agency’s sections operate out of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Central Complex. In addition to the Sheriff’s administrative and Criminal Investigation offices, the agency’s Records, Human Resources, Media Relations Office, Forensics Unit, Information Management Unit, Supply, Training, and several other key support functions operate out of the Central Complex.
If you were to ask Sheriff Beary what would be the one thing about his tenure as Sheriff that he will always treasure the first words out of his mouth would be, “the people.” He always has, and continues to this day, praised the quality of the men and women, civilian and sworn alike, as the basis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office success story. He would tell you that it’s easy to lead when you have the support of a quality and dedicated team. He will dwell on the good times, the tough times, the difficult cases that were solved, the countless hours and sacrifices made for the sake of an investigation, or working unthinkable hours in the wake of three major hurricanes in less than two months, or a series of special details. He will fondly refer to the Violent Crime Initiatives of 2007 and the tremendous commitment required to make those details a success. He will tell you that those details really did “make a difference.” And then he will say how grateful he is for the folks who missed their kid’s ball game, birthday party, or an anniversary dinner to make those details work. Then the mood suddenly shifts and his voice takes on a somber tone as he reminds you of those who are no longer here to enjoy the success stories, or go to their kid’s ball game or that anniversary dinner.
“We’ve been here for the best of times and seen the results of some very fine people doing some incredibly good things in this community,” said Sheriff Beary. “And way too many of us have been here for the worst of times and had to say goodbye to some very brave and honorable men and then look into the eyes of their wives, children, and parents and wonder why. It never gets easy and I pray that it never happen again.”
Sheriff Beary has always looked out for his personnel and his law enforcement family outside the agency. Many have already forgotten that he led the charge to restore the retirement benefit rate for sworn personnel nor are some aware of his ongoing commitment to the Adam Pierce Bill which will insure a police officer seriously injured in the line of duty will keep and maintain his or her high risk retirement benefits. He will continue to work towards the passing of that legislation.
It took some persistence and a few different approaches to get Sheriff Beary to discuss what he considered to be milestones in his career as Sheriff. The things he was most proud of. He was quick to bring up the Juvenile Arrest and Monitor Unit not only because of what the unit continues to accomplish in the county but the fact that it has attracted the interest of law enforcement agencies nationwide. He speaks fondly of the professionalism displayed by the agency following Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne when our sworn and civilian personnel did their jobs even as they themselves experienced damage and property loss from the three major storms in 2004. And if you can keep him on topic long enough he might mention the fact that he was elected president of the National Sheriff’s Association in 2002, a fact that all but escaped mention by the local media who were all too often quick to criticize him.
Sheriff Beary also sees the agency’s recent reorganization and move towards Intelligence Led Policing coupled with the recently implemented Fusion Center as a very positive and innovative approach to dealing with the area’s crime rate. Quick access to broad data bases, onboard analysts, and the ability to quickly assimilate and make time sensitive and accurate information to investigators through the Fusion Center is already paying dividends in terms of solving difficult cases.
But when pressed really hard for what he would like to be remembered for when he turns out the lights and walks out of his office for the last time his response was simple and direct. “I would like the next Sheriff and the men and women who serve under him to know I have left this agency in the best shape it can possibly be. I have always done what I believed was the right thing and what was best for the agency and those who served and continue to serve in it. If I can be remembered for that I have done my job.”
Sheriff Jerry L. Demings is writing the next chapter in the history of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Demings brings the street experience of a season law enforcement officer who has paid his dues and worked his way up through the ranks and the business savvy of a chief executive officer for a major corporation to the Office of the Sheriff of Orange County. And he has hit the ground running. Within his first two months in office he has already put his crosshairs on the street thugs in the county’s toughest communities by augmenting the agency’s Street Enforcement or TAC Unit and sponsoring a major crime summit that brought a number of community leaders together to identify and discuss the challenges of policing Orange County during a time of lean budgets and younger, more violent offenders.
“We will face a great number of challenges in Orange County during the coming years but I am confident that the agency I have been given the privilege to command and the tremendous support I continue to receive from the community will enable us to maintain the quality of life that our citizens not only expect, but deserve,” said Sheriff Demings. “I have reached out to the community to enlist their direct involvement and participation in this process and am overly pleased with the response I have received.”