News from the desk of Sheriff James Potter


“The Sheriff’s Role in Law Enforcement”

In my fourth article in this series, I would like to present to you the Sheriff’s role in the law enforcement function. In this article I will showcase the constitutional, statutory and overall duties and responsibilities of the Sheriff. I will also provide information on how each one impacts our citizens in the community. In particular for this article, the law enforcement/crime prevention function.

The Sheriff has a duty to enforce both the United States and Florida Constitution, as well as Florida state laws and statutes providing security, safety and well-being of its citizens. This is accomplished through the delivery of law enforcement services, the operation of the County Jail and the provision of court security. The Office of the Sheriff functions as the Executive Officer of the court. Under Florida law, the Sheriff derives legal authority from the Constitution of the State of Florida.

As you can see there is a large amount of responsibility so let’s break it down by concentrating on the law enforcement component. One of the primary roles for the Sheriff is to prevent crime in communities, enforce the law, provide emergency response during a crisis and provide support services and assistance to citizens.

The first component of the law enforcement function is for the Sheriff to plan effectively and ensure the community is a safer environment for citizens by implementing strategies to prevent crime. The Sheriff works consistently with organizations and neighborhood leaders by educating about how to take action against crime in their communities. This is accomplished through the Sheriff and Deputies by communicating and conveying often with community leaders about the importance of monitoring suspicious activities in their neighborhoods and reporting their observations to the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff also informs community members about the different programs available to help neighborhoods to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

The transitional component of the education component is the increased presence of law enforcement in residential and other areas of the county, and how it can make a positive impact to combat crime. Oftentimes, when criminals see a consistent law enforcement presence, they may think twice before committing a crime. This transitional component also includes other strategies such as increased marked and unmarked patrol vehicle presence and the application of other passive technologies.

The second component of the law enforcement function is for the Sheriff to enforce laws in their jurisdiction. The Sheriff and Deputies enforce laws by investigating suspicious or criminal activity and arresting people who break the law. Arresting people who break the law is a primary duty for the Sheriff and is a major function toward keeping the community safe. Without this component, those desiring to commit crime would be emboldened to prey upon the community at large, which is unacceptable.

The third component of the law enforcement function encompasses other important aspects of the Sheriff’s responsibility as well as extending to other areas of importance. As we all know the main focus of law enforcement is not simply crime prevention, investigating a crime and arresting those who have broken the law. This third component stems from the duties of the Sheriff as a lawman and enters into the area of empathy and helpfulness to the citizens of the county.

Taking a quick, efficient, and proactive approach when responding to emergency crisis situations is another important responsibility for the Sheriff and Deputies. Remember, deputies are first responders who will be present on scene for almost every emergency situation. Whether it is a fire, murder, burglary or traffic accident, our deputies work hard to take the initiative to be the first responders on scene to help aid during an emergency.

While the Sheriff prepares and trains to take a proactive approach to preventing crime, we must also take action to find solutions while investigating. We must provide support services to potential victims or others involved in crisis situations. The Sheriff’s Office works to fulfill deficits within the needs of our community by implementing certain programs and identifying resources for incidents, such as child trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, substance abuse and more. The Sheriff’s Office has a Victim’s Advocate Unit that works directly to help citizens impacted by providing them the necessary resources and assistance in the navigation of the criminal justice system.

As an overview of the three components and a positive note, the Sheriff is responsible for maintaining a positive presence and involvement within the community. This included being a positive influence on our youth, providing crime prevention education for the community, arresting those who have broken the law and helping those who have been victimized or involved in a crisis.

We are here for you, DeSoto County.

Be Kind, Be Safe, God Bless,

Sheriff Potter