At the most recent Tiger Bay forum with the candidates for Pinellas County Sheriff, Scott Swope, the Democrat fly in the Republican ointment, made reference to the fact that the media, specifically this blog, had all but ignored his candidacy. This despite Swope being an obviously capable candidate for Sheriff who, admittedly, deserves better from me and the Tampa Bay Times and the local TV stations. To make up for this slight, I dispatched Daphne Street to interview Swope. Here are the highlights of their conversation.
Daphne Street: What are the top priorities you intend to address as Pinellas County Sheriff?
Scott Swope: One, to restore public confidence in the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office. Two, to resolve integrity issues, especially in light of the various internal investigations; people need to trust the office and its leadership. Three, improve internal morale—a recent survey showed that about ¾ of Pinellas Sheriff’s Office employees are disgruntled. Four, focus resources on public safety concerns versus hydroponic marijuana and internet sweepstakes.
Daphne Street: What does public safety mean to you?
Scott Swope: Public safety is a violation of the law that violates the rights and civil liberties of others. Public safety crimes endanger the public in some way, often physically such as DUIs, human trafficking and domestic violence. They also threaten the safety of property in the form of theft and damage to property.
Daphne Street: What qualities will you bring to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office?
Scott Swope: I will bring leadership to the office. What I mean by that is the lack of leadership in the Sheriff’s Office is shown when you look at statistics of the epidemic of Oxycodone-related deaths in Pinellas County, and you see the Sheriff’s Office focus on hydroponic [marijuana] investigations. You know the prevalence of human trafficking and exploitation of children and you cut the budget for Crimes Against Children and sexual predator operations and instead focus on internet café sweepstakes investigations.
I also bring a vision for the future of the Sheriff’s Office. A plan that includes making public safety the number one priority and to improve company morale so that people are proud to work for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Data and statistics determine where our resources need to go, and that’s with public safety being number one.
Daphne Street: Why are you the best choice for Pinellas County Sheriff?
Scott Swope: First, I am the only [candidate] with a business degree—with formal education in finance. The Sheriff’s Office operates with a $22 million budget, and I think that business education is important when you are responsible for managing a budget of that size. For instance, I would not have made the cuts that the current Sheriff has made. Top priorities for resources would have been the top priorities for public safety such as addressing the problem of pill mills and human trafficking.
Second, specifically where I differ from [Everett] Rice, is that he is full of political rhetoric. I have offered ideas on how to make the Sheriff’s Office a better place to work and to increase public safety. Rice has not offered specific solutions. He’s full of criticism for how things are being done now and rests on the fact that he ran the office before, so he can do it again, But, I have not heard specific ideas from him on how he would make things better.
Daphne Street: What is one thing you want to make certain the public knows?
Scott Swope: I am the only [candidate] who will be on the ballot for sure on November 6. I don’t have anyone running against me in a primary race. Sometimes those running in the primary get more attention because people will be voting on them first. I urge people to stay informed about all of the candidates and issues that are important to them so that they can make the best choice. I encourage people to come out to forums such as the one to be held July 17 and others scheduled later on to help make an informed choice. You can find out more about me, my campaign and scheduled appearances by visiting my website: SwopeforSheriff.com.