Thomas Dougherty, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | November 2, 2016
Thomas Dougherty is the no-party-affiliation candidate for Flagler County Sheriff. He faces Republican Rick Staly and Democrat Larry Jones on the Nov. 8, general election ballot. Dougherty has not raised any money, and says he does not intend to.
Dougherty initially did not answer the questions, ahead of the primary. He did so ahead of the general election.
The race had drawn the most candidates for any single local office (nine), and generated the most expensive campaigns, with total fund-raising (and loans from candidates to themselves) exceeding $200,000 between them, by mid-July.
The sheriff is paid 126,123 a year. The salary is set by the state based on the county’s population, but paid out of local dollars. The winner will serve a four-year term, controlling a current budget of $25 million, 255 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- What qualifies you to run?
- Character and temperament
- Policing needs
- Sheriff’s evaluation
- Police shootings
- Black fears
- War on drugs and pot
- Best police agency
- Internal affairs
Place and Date of Birth: Sept. 30, 1960.
Current job: Not disclosed.
Party affiliation: Independent.
Net worth and financial disclosure: Not disclosed.
Resume: Not disclosed.
Experience, education and community. I am a former 20-year decorated Sergeant of the New York City Police Department. Also a three-year Deputy Sheriff with the Windham County Vermont Sheriff’s department, serving as a School Resource Officer and a High School Criminal Justice Teacher. I also have a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Education. I am currently a teacher in the Flagler School system with 10 years of teaching experience. I have tremendous communication skills and the ability to work well with others. I responded to over 30,000 calls for police service during my career. As a supervisor I was trained and responsible for all managerial and procedural aspects of the busiest police department in the world. I am a member of many local and national volunteer organizations. I am committed to making the Flagler County Sheriff’s department a great police department.
What managerial experience do you have with multi-million dollar budgets, and what experience do you have negotiating with governments, as you will have to, with the county commission and Palm Coast government, as sheriff? You refer to yourself as a teacher in the school district: are you in fact on the faculty of any given school, or a substitute teacher?
As an NYPD Sergeant I was a participant in the everyday financial operations of the 400 employees of the Precinct to which I was assigned. The commanding officer included Sergeant supervisors in the financial management of our precinct which is part of the multi-billion dollar NYPD budget. Obviously I have not had experience negotiating with the county or Palm Coast government as I have not held that position, as of yet. I do not expect to have any difficulties negotiating with government officials because of my extensive professional and educational experience as a NYPD Police Officer/Sergeant and Teacher. I am a proud member of the Flagler County substitute teachers. I have taught grades 1 through 12 in the Flagler School District. I have also taught a High School Advanced College accredited Criminal Justice course in Windham County Vermont. I have a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a M.A. in Education.
Larry Jones (D)
Rick Staly (R)
Thomas Dougherty (I)
Palm Coast City Council
Nick Klufas (Dist. 3)
Pam Richardson (Dist. 3)
Flagler School Board
Maria Barbosa (Dist. 5)
Myra Middleton-Valentine (Dist. 5)
Flagler County Commission
Jason DeLorenzo (Dist. 1)
Charlie Ericksen (Dist. 1)
Barbara Revels (Dist. 3)
Dave Sullivan (Dist. 3)
George Hanns (Dist. 5)
Donald O'Brien (Dist. 5)
2. Describe your character and temperament, and what people you’ve worked with—or citizens you’ve interacted with—would say are your most serious personal flaws, in so far as how they affect your job. What do you do to address those flaws?
I am a honest, friendly and honorable man who stands by his word. My temperament is one of calmness and logical thinking in the face of adversity. A personal flaw of mine is that I tend to disregard help from others, because I like to do the job myself.
In your answer below, you concede that the most dangerous temptation for a sheriff is “thinking that he does not have to consult with his subordinates.” But it appears from your answer to this second question that disregarding help from others might fall in a related category of not consulting with subordinates. You have clearly identified a problem, but also suggested that you may fall into that trap: how do you reconcile the two answers?
I will always keep the best interests of the residents of Flagler county as the deciding factor in making my decisions. I will always be open to advice from my co-workers and any one else who holds the same values as myself.
The most dangerous temptation about the Sheriff’s power is the Sheriff thinking that he does not have to consult with his subordinates. As the Sheriff I will document every aspect of my daily job duties. I will work closely with my co-workers, asking for their advice and respect their ideas and opinions. I will have an open door policy that will allow my police officers and the public to express their thoughts freely.
Your answer is entirely focused on one internal issue with staff and describes what would be expected at a minimum of a sheriff interactions with staff. Does abuse of power, political favoritism, manipulation of evidence not enter into your equation of potential temptations or dangers of the position?
My 30-year history of honorable public service is who I am. There is nothing that will ever break my honor and commitment to the people of Flagler county.
1. Improve the inner and outer security of our schools and the safety of our students and school employees. Integrate more police officers into the school district to provide safety and educational information to our students and families. Have one male and one female police officer in both our high schools, one officer in each of the middle schools and one in each of the elementary schools. We have to keep our kids safe.
2. Lead by example: Use my NYPD training and experience to create a great Sheriff’s office. Show my officers that I care about them both professionally and personally which will result in a productive , enjoyable workplace.
3. Improve the communication between the Sheriff’s Department and the residents of Flagler County in regards to helpful information and education. I will be a very visible Sheriff, constantly training and educating my officers and the public. I will have bi-weekly meetings town meetings, open to the public to discuss law enforcement issues and subjects. Get my officers out of their cars and communicating with the public during downtime. Have a weekly open informational meeting for the public at the town library. Continually educate my officers and the public.
When the school district considered adding five cops in schools, the bill to the school district was projected to nearly double to $437,000, not counting costs to the sheriff’s office. Current, total costs of the SRO program, including costs to the sheriff’s office, Palm Coast and the district, add up to over $700,000. That’s with just a half dozen deputies in schools. You’re proposing to go back to nine or 10 deputies, as in the earlier part of the previous decade. Who will pay for that, when the school district and Palm Coast cannot, or will not? Who will pay for “inner and outer security” of school security improvements, and what do you mean by that? What, precisely, do you mean by getting cops out of their cars and communicating with the public during their down time? Why should the public be amenable to such intrusions, and what do you define as a cop’s “down time”?
The Federal government and Florida state government can be asked to contribute funds to cover the cost of additional officers in our schools. In addition present patrol officers can visit our schools more frequently. The inner and outer security of our schools can be improved with open discussion. The creation of a volunteer citizen security program, single entrance and exit, metal detectors, female SROs, armed administrators and open house security informational meetings are all options to improving school security. “Down time” is when a police officer is not responding to a service call. Police officers can use this time to make positive verbal and educational contacts in the community. Stopping to visit crime victims, the elderly, schools, hospitals, businesses, offenders on probation, families in crises are all examples of using down time effectively. These examples of community policing are also great trust builders between Law Enforcement and the community.
5. Give us your geographically precise and documented summary of where you see the county’s and Palm Coast’s greatest law enforcement needs, how those needs compare with the way personnel is currently assigned, and what you would do differently, if anything.
I will first evaluate the current use of manpower and consult with my officers as to the best application of that. I am in favor of a three zone approach. There are police presence and response needs in the A1A area and to the east and west of I-95. Assign supervisors and officers to these three zones. Top priority is police coverage in all our schools.
You’re essentially referring to the near-totality of the county and Palm Coast. Can you document the policing need in the A1A area and the areas east and west of 95? You again refer to beefing up cops’ presence in schools. And are you suggesting that the zones you refer to have neither officers nor supervisors? What evidence do you have that a beefed up cop presence there is needed?
As your Sheriff I will evaluate the need for police officers according to crime rates and statistics in an area. Simply put more police presence will be assigned to high crime areas with the protection of our schools being top priority.
6. Putting aside ethical issues that have affected the current and previous sheriff—and that have been amply treated in the press and elsewhere—what are three community-related issues the sheriff has handled well, and three that he’s handled poorly.
Three issues that the current Sheriff has handled well are: 1. Officer training and response to violent incidents. 2. Officer training, awareness and response to citizens with mental health issues. 3. Maintaining a control on overall crime in Flagler County.
Three issues handled poorly. 1. Poor communication between the Sheriff and residents. More information and education needs to be made available to the public. 2. Police officers not utilizing down time more productively. Get out of the car and communicate with the community. 3. Traffic enforcement. Too many aggressive drivers causing accidents and the unlawful use of cell phones while driving. Also more attention to drunk drivers. Regular and consistent enforcement of traffic laws will save lives.
What sort of information and education are you looking to make available to the public? Will you be instituting more DUI roadblocks?
The Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement field is filled with an amazing amount of information that can be passed on to the public. As your Sheriff I will have weekly open house meetings to exchange information with the community. More importantly the public can offer their ideas and thoughts to the department. A win, win situation for both sides and a great community builder. I will be conducting frequent DWI checkpoints throughout the county. D.W.I. is a major safety concern and as your Sheriff I will do all in my power to address it.
7. Turnover has been steep. The average years of experience of deputies on the street has fallen, exposing the public to generally younger, possibly more gung-ho but less seasoned deputies. To what do you attribute the turnover, and what specific steps will you take to reduce turn-over and add experience to our streets?
There is a high turnover because at this time police officers are unhappy with the management of their department. As a former police officer I was happy with my job when I knew that my commanding officer cared about me. A good commanding officer looks out for his officers on a professional and personal level. Police officers will always respond in a positive way with a good commander which will result in better work production and officers who want to stay.
8. Since Sheriff Manfre took over, not a single individual has been killed, shot, or shot at by a Flagler County deputy in Flagler County. (One individual shot himself in a stand-off with deputies in November 2013, and ex-Flagler deputy Daniel Ruddell was shot at last November as he attempted to flee from deputies, including Flagler deputies, in St. Johns County). But there were at least four documented instances of armed individuals who were peacefully apprehended after stand-offs or confrontations. That’s in contrast with numerous police shootings in Volusia and St. Johns over the same period, at a time when police have been under greater scrutiny because of such shootings. To what do you attribute the way Flagler deputies have bucked the trend, and what will you do to ensure that this, as opposed to a more violent, norm, continues?
The reason for non-fatal incidents in Flagler County is the result of good police work. It is the police officers themselves who have used their training and good communication skills and common sense to keep even our violent offenders safe.
But you just told us in previous answers that communication and training is an issue at the sheriff’s office. Is it?
Communication and Training are the cornerstones to a great police department. New research and information are always being presented and improvements can always be made for the benefit of police officers and the community.
9. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells his teen-age son, in his National Book Award-winning “Between the World and Me” (2015): “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied, of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protection racket.” Is Coates wrong? Putting what Coates tells his son in the context of a county that was last to desegregate in Florida, and that still has an overwhelmingly white sheriff’s office, tell us how you’d reassure parents of young black men in this community.
We as a nation must make it a priority to continually educate and teach all Americans about the sanctity of life, no matter what our skin color is. Black members of our community will know that I will protect their rights and families. I worked as a sergeant for five years in Harlem, New York. I will protect and if necessary lay my life down for any one of God’s creations. I will personally reassure our young black men that on my watch they will be protected and any police officer violating their rights as an American citizen will be punished to the full extent of the law.
You did not tell us if you consider Coates’s assessment accurate.
I do believe that Mr Coates’s assessment is valid. As Americans we all have to respect and treat each other better regardless of our skin color. We are all Americans.
10. If you were to give a grade to the war on drugs as it’s been conducted since Nixon, what would that grade be, and why? Putting aside what the law is at the moment, do you think casual pot users—the occasional reefer smoker, the person caught with a few joints—should be criminally charged and jailed, as opposed to issued civil citations? What role should officer discretion play in criminally charging casual pot users?
Since President Nixon I would have to give our country a “C” in its efforts to win the war on drugs. My reason for this is simple: education is always a good approach. As a country we need to do a better job of educating our public about the causes and effects of illegal drug use. I am in favor of citations being issued to people in possession of any amount of marijuana under 2 ounces. However anyone smoking marijuana in public should be arrested, that is a blatant disregard for our law. I am in favor of medical use of marijuana for serious illnesses. I am in favor also for citation offenders to complete community service hours in addition to being cited. I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana due to its harmful effects on the human brain.
Do you consider marijuana more harmful to the brain than alcohol? Would you be able to tell us how many deaths a year are attributed to marijuana use, as opposed to alcohol use?
In my opinion Marijuana and Alcohol are equally harmful to the brain. Of course the frequency and amount of use will determine the extent of damage to the brain. Research has shown that frequent marijuana and alcohol use damages the human brain. It does not make sense to legalize marijuana. I do not know how many deaths were attributed to marijuana use as opposed to alcohol use.
[Editor’s note: about 88,000 deaths a year are attributed to alcohol use according to the Centers for Disease Control. One death has been documented and associated with marijuana use in the past two years, according to CDC.]
11. The Flagler County jail’s bed space has now more than doubled, though for the past decade, including the years of somewhat higher crime during the housing boom years, it served the county’s needs. Despite an increasing population, crime is not increasing apace. Diversionary programs are also helping. But jail beds have a way of abhorring emptiness. What will you do to keep beds from getting filled just because they’re there?
The goal of our society should be to keep people out of jail. Jails should not be money-makers for private companies. Violent offenders need to be separated from society and placed in prisons. However, there are too many non-violent prisoners in the jail system. It is a waste of taxpayer money and human life. As your Sheriff I will consistently educate my community so that we can help our fellow young people and residents stay out of prison. I also believe in restitution as opposed to incarceration. Research has shown that community service is a productive alternative to incarceration. Give our young people a chance to correct their behavior so that they do not have a criminal record for minor offences.
Is it within a sheriff’s authority to decide who goes to jail, or who gets to pay restitution as opposed to serving in jail or prison? If not, what powers do you have to affect the type of offenders who end up at the jail, since those are the consequences of legislative acts that have little to do with sheriffs’ or cops’ discretion?
The Sheriff is required by law to adhere to the US Constitution, follow the rules and procedures of the state of Florida and the Federal government. The Sheriff should not decide who goes to jail and who does not. I do have the power to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders by offering my talents and support to all involved in rebuilding the life of an offender and his or her family. It is the honorable thing to do. I have devoted my life to this campaign because I believe that as an American it is my duty to make our country a better place. We live in the greatest country in the world. I realize that and want to give back to America. My idea to run for Flagler County Sheriff was my own.
12. In your opinion, and your own places of employment past and present aside, what is the best example of a Police or Sheriff Department in the United States, and why? Please be precise in your choice of agency.
The best example of a law enforcement agency is my former agency the New York City Police Department, the busiest police department in the world. The NYPD is constantly looking for ways to improve the department through training and education. My second choice is the Los Angeles California P.D. which also does an amazing job with a massive population, using modern technology and police training to provide great police services to their city.
13. If you have been the subject of one or more Internal Affairs investigation or its equivalent, or a use of force complaint, please tell us in what agency, when, what the circumstances or issues were, and what the disposition was in those cases.
I was never shot or had to fire my weapon in 20 years of street patrol. I was a witness to an Internal Affairs investigation and was never a subject of one. I never violated my oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and would never tarnish the shield that my father wore before me.
Thomas Dougherty did not answer the question.