On Thursday, FlaglerLive published “Palm Coast and Flagler at Risk of Overfunding Police,” an opinion analysis by FlaglerLive Editor Pierre Tristam on Flagler County Sheriff’s request for 25 additional deputies from Palm Coast and Flagler County government (10 and 15, respectively). The Sheriff’s Office’s Mark Strobridge responds.
By Mark Strobridge
My forty years of law enforcement experience compel me to address several major misinterpretations in the recent Flagler Live editorial entitled “Palm Coast and Flagler Risk Overfunding Police.”
First, the University of North Florida manpower study was led by one of the most respected criminal justice researchers in America. Its methods and findings are entirely driven by the actual data and documented citizen expectations for service in our community. The researchers were totally unhandcuffed and uninfluenced.
This University of North Florida study refers to the officers per 1,000 residents as the traditional method of law enforcement estimating needed manpower. The study never exclusively uses this ratio to calculate manpower needs for Flagler County and the City of Palm Coast. The conclusions of the study do not depend on the ratio referred to within the editorial. In fact, it replaces it with a manpower calculation model specific to the needs of our community. This manpower calculation model is tailored to our community and driven by actual workload and documented service demand by residents. It confirms the need for both deficit and growth deputies. This manpower calculation model has now survived rigorous methodological scrutiny and was published in an international academic journal. Unlike the opinion editorial, the study withstood the scrutiny of academic review.
Second, the study used actual calls for service for the Sheriff’s Office service area and not the age of the population to drive manpower needs. The calls for service and jurisdiction for the Cities of Flagler Beach and Bunnell were not part of the data reviewed and therefore the conclusions were based on the FCSO service area.
Third, crime rate alone does not dictate a police force size. Lower crime does not mean you reduce the police force. The Police Chiefs of the cities where crime is out of control recently pleaded with the President of the United States for help because they have an insufficient number of police officers to protect their communities. These cities prove that if you wait until the crime rate increases to add police officers, you have already lost; much policing activity is not a direct response to crime calls. Many calls for service involve an issue of mental health or substance abuse and much more service calls that are not crime related. Often, responding to these calls prevents the situation from escalating to a crime. The success of Sheriff Staly’s guardianship policing model is we are pro actively identifying and addressing issues in our community to ensure public safety. The result of our strategy is a 48 percent crime reduction in four years. We must protect this success and not forfeit it. Other communities around America have had to learn this lesson the hard way.
Fourth, while technology supports our success, you cannot substitute technology or volunteers to answer a call for service which requires a deputy sheriff.
The fundamental issue remains unchanged. Approved growth means more calls for service. Over the last 20 years, the City of Palm Coast tripled in size to 90,000 residents. In only six of those 20 years, did the City of Palm Coast add any additional deputies to cope with the increasing demand for service for the growth they approved. Seventy percent of those twenty years they never added a deputy causing services to decline and crime was like a seesaw. In the same time frame, Flagler County doubled in size to 115,000 residents. In only six of those years did the county fund additional deputies to keep up with growth. In sixty-five percent of those twenty years, they did not. This easily explains the need for thirty-one deficit deputies documented by the UNF study.
According to all available data including new and proposed projects, the county will almost double in size in the next 25 years. Flagler County will become the fifth fastest growing county of Florida’s sixty-seven counties. In fact, today Flagler County is among the faster growing counties in Florida. This explains the need for growth deputies to keep pace in the future.
Had prior city councils, prior county commissions and prior Sheriffs simply added a few new deputies every year or every other year when the growth was occurring, we would not need the number of deputies we now request and need. Support in recent years is very much appreciated but a major identified need must still be addressed.
We commend the Mayor and City Council of Palm Coast and the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners for their strong, pro-active, and bold leadership. They understand that population growth impacts the demand for services and not just crime rates by supporting these requests for needed deputies. They are ensuring that our community will remain one of the safest in America and the service levels our residents have become accustomed to will continue.
Chief Mark Strobridge is Sheriff Rick Staly’s chief of staff.
Pierre Tristam says
A couple of clarifications.
Of course the UNF academics were not handcuffed. But the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office paid for the study. That makes it no different than a pharmaceutical study paid for by Pfizer or a smoking study paid for by RJ Reynolds: it may be conducted with perfectly sound methodology. But let’s not call it independent, let alone consider it the final word.
I never suggested that the study uses ratios “exclusively.” As the study repeats again and again, it uses a “blended per-capita-workload research strategy constituting a hybrid manpower analysis model.” The “hybrid” reference is even included in the title. So it is inaccurate to claim that the study “replaces” the per-capita approach. It devotes almost half its analysis to per-capita methodology and repeatedly refers to per-capita standards, including in its conclusion: “assuming a Flagler County population of 123,902 in 2025, FCSO will need 248 deputies to sustain an approximate rate of 2.0 deputies per 1,000 residents.” While, as Strobridge claims, “the calls for service and jurisdiction for the Cities of Flagler Beach and Bunnell were not part of the data reviewed” in the manpower analysis, the per-capita analysis in the quoted population figure took on the entire county, including Bunnell and Flagler Beach, to reach its recommendation of 248 deputies by 2025. We can disagree on perspective. There’s no room for disagreement over facts.
The claim that the county will “nearly double in size” in the next 25 years is based on the University of Florida’s high projection for 2045, of a population of 212,000 for Flagler County. The bureau’s high projections for Flagler have never come close to accuracy. Even its mid-range projections have not, as I pointed out in the original piece. In any case, to make any current budgeting of deputies on a 25-year projection makes no sense. Even a five-year horizon can be a stretch, considering the variability of these numbers, of the economy, the political climate and the unknown.
Finally, I’m heartened to see Strobridge note that “crime rate alone does not dictate a police force size.” As the UNF study notes in parts that were unfortunately overlooked every time it was discussed, “The idea that adding officers will necessarily decrease crime through increased risk of arrest seems logical but is not necessarily the case as offenders may not perceive increased risks of arrest and continue at the same rate of offending or simply migrate away from districts and sectors with an increased officer presence.” More pointedly, the study notes: “the summative conclusion of the crime rate-size of police line of research… is that it is law enforcement style more so than force size that affects crime rates.” The sheriff has deservedly received plaudits for that style. It’s the kind of policing we have in Flagler that has given us its successes and low rate of violence, including the county’s remarkable, nearly non-existent record of officer-involved shootings. It’s not the number of cops on the streets. Again, as the UNF study notes: “Despite overwhelming evidence, such as Lee’s meta-analysis, researchers keep examining the officer-crime rate correlation to no new results and politicians continue to argue that increasing the size of a force will result in reduced crime. The vast majority of criminologists and criminal justice scientists acknowledge that the crime rate-staffing level question has been answered and that this line of research has been exhausted.”
I called the UNF study flawed. One of its flaws is its unresolved contradictions between some of its most cogent pages, like the passages just quoted, and concluding numbers that not only contradict those pages, but that at no point in the entire study took account of the hugely diminishing crime rate that started in 2009 and accelerated on Staly’s watch. But that’s why studies can inform debates, but shouldn’t be mistaken for their only arbiters.
““Palm Coast and Flagler at Risk of Overfunding Police,” an opinion analysis by FlaglerLive Editor Pierre Tristam on Flagler County Sheriff’s request for 25 additional deputies from Pal Coast and Flagler County government (10 and 15, respectively).
Give him 5 and 8 “respectively”, and call it a day. Nobody ever, gets everything they ask for and they always ask for more than they need.
Pierre,You failed to bring up 2020 Census data. According to the census, Flagler County population increased in the senior age category.
I worked for the FCSO for many years. The Crime statistics can be easily manipulated. Why do you think Sheriff Manfre and Sheriff Flemming both boasted about reducing crime every time election year came around? Sheriff Staly now has more commanders working for him than ever before. All of them making over $80,000 a year. It is a joke among the rank and file. Crime rates are low here because we have a large elderly population. This sheriff wastes more money on frivious fun toys than any sheriff before him. In fact he thrives on cop toys. That’s why we have airboats and 4wheelers we never had before and may other things the public should know about. Wasting money and asking for more. I am shocked our county keeps giving in to him. Really look at the budget increases he always asks for. It will not end…ever. the sheriff wants power and money is a form of power. Keep feeding him and he will only grow more hungry!
David S. says
Well stated but true. Got to tell you Staly thinks he is still living in Orlando.
Having worked and retired in the field of Law Enforcement in a much larger agency than Flagler, I concur with your thoughts. I’ve seen firsthand how reported crimes are reclassified to a lesser degree or completely “unfounded”, thus removing the reporting incident altogether. The FBI can only provide stats as they are given to them by the providing agency. NYPD started this with “ComStat” and that program was adopted by many agencies over the years, only the name changed. It forced personnel to change the way crime was reported and when it all came to a “head” and State Attorney’s began investigating how stats were being manipulated, good people loss jobs and some went to jail for falsifying reports. The sad part of that was the hierarchy didn’t take responsibility for ordering the downgraded crime reporting and continued the process, only modifying it. No more “cookie cutting” or “cut & pasting” for major case clearances, hence burglaries, theft, robbery, assaults, etc.
What your county commissioners don’t know is the intricacies of the inner working of case clearances. If they did, heads would roll.
You have some good insight due to having worked within FCSO. As a resident here in Palm Coast as well as being a retired LEO from out of state, I too have insight from my 29 year career in the criminal justice profession. I’m still inclined to support an increase in funding to allow the sheriff’s office to increase it’s staffing level due to Flagler County’s current population growth and expected growth in the future with all of the housing construction going on, particularly here in and around Palm Coast. Bringing to light the perceived abundance of executive staff and “toys” that may or may not be justified for the size and scope of the law enforcement function in our area may well cause a more thorough review before funds are appropriated for anything other than actual line level deputies and the vehicles and other necessary equipment necessary for those added positions. Public scrutiny can be a powerful oversight tool to combat frivolous spending, but I would hate to deny funding altogether when our local area is seeing a very active housing boom that will inevitably result in many additional residents, workers and visitors to the county. I like the fact that we have a lower crime rate than most other areas in the state, and we as a community need to do our part through funding law enforcement to ensure that we keep it that way.
I have to agree with Power. We voted again for sheriff Staly and before election his traffic units were seeing in Palm Coast enforcing the law…Now after reelected they are all AWOL. This is very frustrating. My relative visiting from out of state was shocked to see the red light, stop sign runners and speeders in PC Parkway and all around town and no one traffic unit enforcement on sight. The accidents have double in the area lately including striking pedestrian and cyclist not respected, trucks in No Truck Roads documented by video to sheriff office with no proper reply or solution, same with litterers over the car windows or open mufflers noise nuisances. Traffic is a problem with growth and worsened by lack of traffic units monitoring. Where are they all in vacation or social gatherings? If the undersheriff contest Flagler Live editorial then “he should provide hard data on request, when operational could tell us to the penny how much and why, so we don’t get hit with a big tax increase”. Also is correct that Palm Coast has less crime given the population age. The University study shown sounds to me like the city traffic studies relayed that are requested and paid by the developers every time that they present a plan for more more housing to be built. Is like asking the fox to design the chicken coup! Then we FPD, Cimarron, Cypress Point, White View and other streets in the city road front residents have to endure the lack of safety and other health affecting and quality of life denying nuisances. C’mon Mr. Staly we voted you so please is time you comply with your promises please and monitor traffic violations and fine the heck out of these drivers, resolving these issues!
I for a fact know we had FCSO 4 wheelers in the 80’s. I drove it and use the blue light that was mounted to a pole that was mounted to a wooden box on the back.
@Who doesn’t want a mustang?
Crime is a relative stat. Let me explain. Been here 2.5 years. No crimes to my knowledge in the immediate area around my house. Sure we had those Palm Coast Parkway shootings at the gas station, the laundromat and whatever else. The relativity in crime there, not my neighborhood, so crime is lower or non-existent. Fast forward to 2020, let’s see a few houses down there’s a home intrusion involving gun play, shots fired. A couple houses over the FBI scrambles a dozen agents to that house. 2021, the crime increase is hitting my property, mailbox taking a beating, 3X in 4 months. I find copper bb’s in the driveway, evidence that my garage door is now being pelted from a juvenile drive by of sorts. a few in either direction and I’m replacing windows or an AC radiator should the bb’s damage that. Maybe even fortunate that the bb’s didn’t hit light fixtures for the driveway. So if anyone were to ask me as a victim, I’d say crime increased in just 2.5 years. Other crimes I didn’t mention, stolen Ford Mustangs from the dealership, drug houses, the 2 arsonists we had & the vandalisms of area parks & the pool facility. Now I don’t know what went on here in the prior 1.5 years, I can imagine it was mostly similar. End of the day, crime is relative to where it’s committed and whether you or someone you know are the victim(s). I appreciate FCSO’s zero tolerance approach. We have domestic terrorists among us in these criminals, they are fewer than the rest of the law abiding in this community, the rest of us need protection from those folks, otherwise you provide that for yourselves. Outnumbering the criminals is an effective strategy to take down the bigger operations. If Staly needs reinforcements to raid drug houses or take down the one discharging a firearm in a home or the yard, so be it, make it happen. I prefer a few more officers on the payroll over a splash pad or pickleball courts. I can see the posts now about pot, it’s not the pot anyone is concerned about, it’s the opium and anything else that the police now have to carry & administer an antidote for an overdose. Any operation involving SWAT level raids & takedowns, FCSO needs the numbers to outnumber criminals in a very unpredictable sting raid operation. When I lived in North Miami, I lived in an apartment where there were drug deals, a meth lab. Trust me on this, after a long day of work, the last thing you want to see is a SWAT team surrounding your neighbors house and you unable to get to your front door/home because everyone has more firepower than you do as the victim of the whole show. In that apartment in Miami, I had parking lot shootings, one juvenile was gunned down 20 feet outside my bedroom window and standing next to my car. And the next day as the sun rises, that area still as a crime scene, I can’t even get to my car to go grocery shop ? Nope, when it comes to crime, you want a safe community, zero tolerance is a good policy. It won’t stop the criminals from doing what they do. But enough of a presence & force is necessary, otherwise the wolves move in among the sheep & take over. Turf wars and gangs and now you’ve got rural Chicago. And the splash pad & pickleball courts are just rural playgrounds like Chicago has, where the next victim gets shot in the next drive by.
John Stove says
The Sheriff Department should be subject to a maximum personnel/expenditure increase per year. Lets say 5 more Deputies and an additional $500,000. This way, their request can be slowly phased in while not blowing up the budget in one year.
Other departments have to hold the line when it comes to requests for projects, manpower, equipment and employee compensation, why shouldnt the sheriffs office do the same?
Florida Voter says
I love how you actually EXACTLY support my reasons for shifting funding from the police to mental health:
You: “much policing activity is not a direct response to crime calls. Many calls for service involve an issue of mental health or substance abuse and much more service calls that are not crime related. ”
Me: “Why have police respond to mental health issues? Police should not be mental health counselors. Let actual mental health counselors do the mental health counseling. Fund mental health responders.”
Take a look at CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon and the MANY other pilot programs based on that model. For many calls, a licensed mental health counselor + RN/EMT team is far better than a police officer. This will let police focus on policing and supports your goal of letting police “answer calls for service which require a deputy sheriff.” [singular changed to plural]
I will guess you have never responded to a call for a person with CIT / mental health issues. Most go sideways real quick.
Mike Cocchiola says
No matter how the sheriff’s department presents its case, it still comes down to statistical modeling. Anyone can distort the outcome by controlling the input. In my years as a budget guy in DoD, the first thing I would ask the captains and colonels seeking ever more funding for their programs is to defend what they already have. E.g., if crime is down 48%, then why should I not cut your budget by 48%? Next, tell me how you have looked within your current funding level for savings that can be applied to your request. What are the priorities… deputies or cars, trucks and boats, desks, chairs and everything else? And finally, what are the direct and specific benefits of additional deputies? Not just more boots on the ground, but defined and measurable outcomes.
The sheriff’s department does a good job. But that does not give Sheriff Staly a pass on professional budget analysis and management. Nor should the BOCC. I trust the BOCC has the good sense to ask the right questions and demand good answers.
Very well said
trailer bob says
“E.g., if crime is down 48%, then why should I not cut your budget by 48%?” You may want to read your comment a couple of times. Sort of like saying, ” If the fire department is able to save half the house fires from total destruction, why not cut the fire department by 50%”.
The success is driven by the resources currently in place…
Not trying to be sarcastic, just bringing it out.
Roy Longo says
Strobridge lost me when he wrote this line:
“These cities prove that if you wait until the crime rate increases to add police officers, you have already lost;”
Let’s keep padding the police force in the event riots break out in Flagler.
Mr. Wise says
To Flagler County Residents Might Want to Print all these Articles off , and Comments off , and send/mail them off to Internal Affairs Make them Aware of What is going on . Maybe the IA Professionals can step in and see if We need 25 deputies or Not . When All else Fails There is All ways A Higher Official in Charge ” FACT “
Question, is the sheriff department supposed to protect and serve the entire county of Flagler, or just Palm Coast? I read about drug houses being busted in Palm Coast only, does the south side of Bunnell even matter to Sheriff Staley and Chief Foster. Bunnell’s south side is the only place in Flagler county that you can buy, sell, or do drugs and not worry about the police. Our lives and community should matter too.
If riots break out just send in the Ohio National Guard with loaded rifles. They have previous experience.
Once again all you complaining fools don’t get it.
I WANT MY FAMILY TO LIVE WITH AS LITTLE CRIME AS POSSIBLE!
MORE COPS LESS CRIME.
That’s the crime report and study I want to read about. Flagler County, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach and Understaffed Bunnell PD need cops.
What a bunch a whiners….
trailer bob says
Yup…I don’t get how the cause and results are not evident to some.
An over policed County.
Not a place of would want to raise a child.