Letters to the Editor

FDLE commissioner’s focus is on public safety

Re the Feb. 9 article Florida’s top cop has earned Gov. Rick Scott’s favor: The article inaccurately implies that as capitol police director, I took inappropriate trips at the request of the governor. As director, one of my duties was to oversee protective operations, and I occasionally worked protective operations details, as other directors have done before me. Prior to my appointment by Commissioner Gerald Bailey as the capitol police director, I was in charge of protective operations.

These assignments are anything but “plum,” requiring long hours, often in stressful environments filled with crowds and potential threats. International trips can be especially challenging, requiring seasoned agents and supervisors.

Communication and coordination on security issues with embassy officials and foreign governments is complex. The governor keeps a busy schedule from early morning into the evening. Providing protection for the governor is an honor for any agent, but it is also a professionally challenging assignment.

During my tenure as capitol police director, I worked details due to the number of vacant positions. I worked holidays to allow agents to spend time with their families and to reduce overtime — my position is ineligible to receive overtime pay.

Decisions about assignments are made with security and efficiencies in mind by the person in charge of protective operations. The governor doesn’t make these decisions, nor has he ever asked to have particular agents assigned to his detail.

The article also implies that I’ve made decisions about FDLE’s priorities and budget requests based on a personal relationship with the governor.

I recently decided to move the protective operations unit, and the chief now reports directly to me. This was my decision and not the governor’s. Throughout FDLE’s history, protective operations have been housed within various divisions, but the supervisor has always had a direct line of communication to the commissioner. I have always felt protective operations should report directly to the commissioner because of its importance.

The article states FDLE’s legislative budget request included 66 full-time positions for public-integrity investigations at a cost of $64 million.

However, our budget request for this item totals $8.4 million. Our total Legislative Budget Request, which is a matter of public record, is $35.7 million.

I’m working with the governor, cabinet, lawmakers and Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones to amend the specific portion of the request referencing agents investigating prison use of force cases. FDLE has not eliminated this Legislative Budget Request item, and I continue to seek funding to manage investigative workload associated with increasing requests on use of force cases.

As a 30-year veteran of FDLE, my focus is on public safety and the 1,800 men and women of FDLE. Our members deserve a commissioner who will advocate for this agency and their needs.

Rick Swearingen, commissioner, Florida Dept of Law Enforcement, Tallahassee