Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Warrant shift puts focus on most dangerous

With more than 14,000 outstanding felony arrest warrants, there should be plenty of work to keep Pinellas County sheriff's deputies busy rounding up those wanted people who pose a significant safety risk. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri did the right thing by reversing course and re-establishing a unit dedicated to tracking down the most dangerous suspects.

Pinellas County had been the only jurisdiction among Florida's seven most populated counties without a full-time squad of detectives serving outstanding arrest warrants — and it had the highest per capita rate of outstanding felony warrants among that group, tying Broward County. To save $1.9 million, as chief deputy to then-Sheriff Jim Coats in 2009, Gualtieri oversaw the elimination of the 16-member warrants bureau. Gualtieri argued the work could be absorbed by patrol deputies, but they could not keep pace with a growing warrants list. Gregory Johns of Safety Harbor eluded capture for 17 months on a felony arrest warrant for drug charges. During that time he raped and impregnated an 11-year-old girl.

The Johns case, among others, so troubled Gualtieri he moved to create the Violent Offender Warrant Unit, which will be staffed by a team of four detectives and a sergeant operating on a $400,000 budget. Unlike the previous unit that could get bogged down looking for minor drug offenders, nonviolent criminals and people involved in civil cases, the new unit will be focusing on the area's most violent wanted felons.

Gualtieri's decision also underscores the need for Pinellas County to improve an antiquated system of record-keeping for outstanding warrants. As the Tampa Bay Times' Peter Jamison and Dan Sullivan reported, other Florida counties routinely purge aging warrants for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Of the 55,000 arrest warrants on file in Pinellas County, 22,000 of them are more than 12 years old. Pinellas County law enforcement and courts officials need to reform the warrants system by weeding out old warrants and creating a more efficient and detailed system that prioritizes warrants based on the severity of the crime. Two active warrants are for people who were born in 1901. It is probably safe to stop looking for them.

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Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

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Published: 01/16/18

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Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

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Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

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Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

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Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

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Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

The Trump administration’s abrupt reversal on its foolhardy plan to allow more oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is a win for the Sunshine State, regardless of whether it is based more on politics than environmental concerns. Drilling poses a uni...
Published: 01/10/18
Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Getting to the bottom of the shootings that left two people dead after a New Year’s Day teen party, one a 15-year-old girl, is the job of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators so far have said that the two security guards who fired ...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/12/18