BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Protestors took to the streets this year in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement. One of their rally cries was to defund the police.
Local leaders say they are working to do their jobs while also being accountable to the community.
A rallying cry to protestors became a cause for concern among the law enforcement community. As some called for federal and state governments to defund the police, law enforcement officials pushed back.
“What I say to defund the police is that you can’t defund what you never funded in the first place,” said Bay County Sheriff, Tommy Ford.
In particular, Ford points out that state and federal authorities have failed to put up enough funds to combat mental health and substance abuse issues. About 25 percent of the inmates in any jail including the Bay County Jail, have mental health issues and are on medication.
“Law enforcement has been required to do a lot of things I think that we weren’t originally intended to do. As funding for mental health care as funding for substance abuse treatment has lagged we’re the only ones who can’t say, ‘oh that’s not our job we’re not going to do that.” said Sheriff Ford.
Through pandemics and hurricanes deputies will be there no matter how bad it gets.
“You call us, we’re coming and we’re going to try and handle the situation and I think we have done a good job,” said Sheriff Ford.
Sometimes the criticism simply doesn’t recognize the dangers law enforcement face.
“I see some of these situations where officers are being criticized when somebody has a knife and in a split second they are charging towards the officer. You know. That is a deadly force situation; it certainly is a tragedy when that happens,” said Sheriff Ford.
While also recognizing that the law enforcement community is accountable to the public.
“We’re required to make those life and death decisions in less than a second. In which there are going to be situations where we make a mistake on that,” said Sheriff Ford
And while calls to defund the police aren’t as common here locally, sheriff ford says he believes if his department did see reduced funding, it would cause more problems for the public.