INDIAN RIVER COUNTY ― Each candidate was asked the same three questions and given 150 words to respond. Their answers follow.

Keith M. Touchberry:

Q: Because of COVID-19, residents have endured a very trying 2020. What are some of the ideas you'd like to see implemented to ensure the safety of your constituents moving forward?

A: I have long had a vision for policing that involves greater collaboration in the community; collaboration based on the premise that crime is a social problem and community members must work together if we are to reduce crime and enhance our quality of life. Together we will fight crime, invest in the welfare and development of sheriff’s personnel, reduce recidivism, and engage our community for resources and solutions. Our safety and security will be maintained as we focus on accomplishing our vision objectives. My vision can be viewed in detail at www.votetouchberry.com. Additionally, we must prepare for the various initiatives aimed at criminal justice "reform" that could adversely impact our budget. Finally, we must engage in bias-free policing while we support, protect, and defend the constitution and our way of life against all enemies foreign and domestic. This we must do if we are to maintain the public trust.

Q: What would you change from the current Sheriff's priorities, and what would you keep?

A: Internally, I will focus on the welfare and development of personnel so they become better crime fighters. I will implement promotion and discipline systems that are fair, impartial, and consistent in application and eliminate favoritism, and a mentoring program for career development. I will address discrepancies in pay structures, and work to reduce health care costs. Externally, I will work to better address how personnel respond to mental and behavioral health issues in the community. I will also ensure we take a lead role in school safety and security and participate more in literacy programs to reduce crime. As far as what I would keep, I believe the current community services unit does a good job but would like to expand programs to better engage our youth. I also feel the organization has sound operational practices and members do what they can to provide services despite their staffing deficits.

Q: Why do you feel you are the best candidate for Sheriff?

A: In addition to my vision, I have the knowledge, ability, and experience to address the leadership deficiencies at the Sheriff’s office. The current leadership style has reduced the morale, proficiency, discipline, and overall "esprit de corps" of personnel. The result of poor leadership has caused a loss of respect for, and trust in our sheriff’s office and our community is being underserved as a result. As an ethics teacher for two different Florida colleges, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, I am well versed in how law organizations become ineffective because of poor leadership and the ultimate consequences to the community if not addressed. Employees there have gone on public record that they feel "undervalued, unimportant, and unrecognized for their service" and until leadership improves and personnel concerns are addressed, our sheriff’s office will continue to lose quality personnel to other organizations.

Richard Rosell:

Q: Because of COVID-19, residents have endured a very trying 2020. What are some of the ideas you'd like to see implemented to ensure the safety of your constituents moving forward?

A: Safety during COVID-19 is a personal responsibility. Making COVID safety the responsibility of law enforcement sets a terrible precedent in that officers/deputies might try to ensure the safety of the public by arresting them for even the most minor, inadvertent violations of the executive order. The public should have the prerogative of implementing their own safety protocols based on governmental guidance. I think the guidance coming from the Sheriff’s Office has been a little lacking in content. I have found that communication is best when assisting the public with their decisions on how they would keep their families safe. I would increase social media posts, making them more substantive, and partner with County Fire/Rescue, Health, and OEM to put on informational, educational workshops. Our low exposure rate in the county is a very good indicator that the public is keeping themselves updated and implementing what works well for them.

Q: What would you change from the current Sheriff's priorities, and what would you keep?

A: It would be easier to say what I would change about the current Sheriff’s priorities if I knew what they were. The Sheriff’s published strategic plan is one of the most poorly written plans I have ever read. It is impossible to pull coherent priorities from it. Given the bad press over the past couple of years, in my opinion, the Sheriff’s priority is that of damage control. My priorities will be a little different. My platform for my initial 100 days is posted on Facebook: Rich Rosell 4 Sheriff. They include five concise, achievable goals: 1) addressing the growing concern related to discriminatory treatment of the minority community, 2) make the leadership of the Sheriff’s Office accountable to the public, 3) repair the relationship between the Sheriff and the bargaining association, 4) stop the opioid crisis in its tracks, and 5) reduce the burglaries throughout the county.

Q: Why do you feel you are the best candidate for Sheriff?

A: With 39 years of experience, I am the most experienced law enforcement officer in the race. I’m the only candidate who has been a Chief Executive in 3 different agencies. I’m a published author and staff writer for a national law enforcement magazine and I have been an adjunct professor for 2 universities, teaching graduate courses. The other 3 candidates combined cannot match any of the preceding qualifications. I have a Bachelor’s, 2 Master’s degrees, and am over halfway through my Doctoral studies. I am a Veteran of the Marine Corps and the US Army. Experience matters. The other candidates will try to make a case that experience doesn’t matter. It is a smokescreen to hide what they lack. We are losing a 12-year sheriff, and like him or not, he should be replaced with an upgrade; we should not go backward and select a lesser-experienced and qualified Sheriff.

Chuck Kirby:

Q: Because of COVID-19, residents have endured a very trying 2020. What are some of the ideas you'd like to see implemented to ensure the safety of your constituents moving forward?

A: Until a vaccine is ultimately developed, both our state and local governments have limited tools available to battle the spread of coronavirus. Legislative actions (or the use of emergency orders) are ultimately about how to best accomplish maximum compliance. If methods prove ineffective, many of our local businesses and their employees could lose their livelihood if another shutdown is required.

As your next elected Sheriff, I would instruct our deputies to use maximum discretion to first educate and issue warnings instead of criminalizing violations through the use of misdemeanor (or county ordinance) citations. That being said, deputies would still respond to take enforcement action (i.e. issue trespass warnings) if a face-mask conflict escalated into a breach of the peace, for example if a person refuses to leave a store or business that requires customers to wear a mask.

The best way to increase public safety is ultimately through voluntary compliance.

Q: What would you change from the current Sheriff's priorities, and what would you keep?

A: I would keep the agency’s current mission statement: to protect the community, prevent crimes and solve problems.

My priorities as Sheriff: 1) Shift the focus of our policies and practices to prioritize the sanctity of human life while implementing strategies that do not result in racial disparities. 2) Take a data-driven approach to focus resources where they will best achieve our defined core missions: to protect our community, prevent crimes and solve problems. 3) Attract and retain the best and brightest employees by establishing a competitive step-pay plan; and a fair, consistent process for promotions and selections to return the Sheriff's Office to the list of "Best Places to Work” in Indian River County. 4) Curtail year-end spending surges and return unused funds to the taxpayers. 5) Transform the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office into a model agency that will follow best practices for the handling of public records requests.

Q: Why do you feel you are the best candidate for Sheriff?

A: I am running for Sheriff because I believe that we deserve better!

Indian River voters should demand integrity and credibility; qualities that are neither groomed nor created simply because one holds an elected or appointed position of power. They come from a well-established set of values, consistently articulated and acted upon, over a long period of time.

This race is all about experience. I am the only candidate Florida certified in corrections as well as law enforcement. In addition to the role of chief law enforcement officer, your elected Sheriff is also responsible for a jail, a public-safety dispatch center, and to execute writs, process and warrants for the courts.

I have demonstrated the political will to reform the agency to show humanity and compassion for those we serve, along with the experience to stand side by side with our deputies and civilian employees to support a change in culture.

Eric Flowers:

Q: Because of COVID-19, residents have endured a very trying 2020. What are some of the ideas you'd like to see implemented to ensure the safety of your constituents moving forward?

A: Having policed our community during the Great Recession, I know that our focus needs to be on burglars, thieves, or others who would compromise the safety of our citizens. We know that when the economy deteriorates, crime goes up, so my focus will be to provide a consistent level of safety and security for Indian River County residents. After successfully providing law enforcement services during multiple hurricanes, we are prepared for the challenges of this pandemic or other future unpredictable events.

Q: What would you change from the current Sheriff's priorities, and what would you keep?

A: My goal when I take office is to look toward 2030, as I plan to be your Sheriff for years to come. This is a career for me, not a retirement job. My 10 year plan for our agency will focus on the next generation of criminals and how to combat them. My mission will involve a fiscally responsible approach to get us from our current staffing, equipment, and technological position to where we will need to be in 2030. By establishing a clear cut plan that includes timely upgrades such as body worn cameras, mental health considerations, and leveraging technology against 21st century criminals, we will immediately start budgeting and preparing for the future. Law enforcement is about being prepared for the unknown. As we improve our skills, technology, and assets, the community will benefit by having the best trained and equipped law enforcement now and in the future.

Q: Why do you feel you are the best candidate for Sheriff?

A: Because I have served our community in various law enforcement roles at the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, I am the only candidate for Sheriff who can begin on day one. I know all the employees, receive regular updates on their progress through weekly staff meetings, and can begin to make a difference on my first day in office. I am the only candidate with Executive Command Staff experience. From budget meetings, to jail repairs, to radio upgrade projects, I have had my finger on the pulse of these items knowing I will take office in January. I have been working towards this goal for many years, and am confident that when I am sworn in as your Sheriff you will see how my experience will have a positive impact on the agency and our community immediately.

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