America has known its fair share of dirty, corrupt, and violent sheriffs, e.g., former Athens County, Ohio Sheriff Pat Kelly; former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio; former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke; and former Hidalgo County, Texas Sheriff Lupe Trevino. All of these top cops were forced from office by criminal prosecution, voter disgust, and/or resignation. They cheated the communities they were elected to serve and protect, and routinely abused the presumed innocent jail inmates under their supervision.
All these bad cops are gone but there are more out there on the law enforcement landscape, like Polk County, Florida Sheriff Grady Judd. Since his election in 2004, Sheriff Judd has stirred his fair share of controversies:
- In 2006, he and his deputies pumped 68 bullets into a suspected cop killer (and would have shot him more but Judd said “that’s all the bullets we had”)
- In 2012, the sheriff was sued for his mistreatment of juvenile inmates held in the Polk County Jail (the Southern Poverty Law Center said “these children are left to fend for themselves” among predatory adult inmates)
- In 2013, the sheriff launched a spying operation against community activists groups;
- In 2016, the sheriff arrested Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook for failing to comply with a court order to “unlock” Apple iPhones for the government, saying “it’s time for elites [like Tim Cook] to understand they don’t run the country.”
Elected Law Enforcement Who Officials Crave Attention
Like his role model “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio, Judd relishes media attention, seeks out any opportunity to hone his law-and-order credentials, and loves to have his picture in the paper.
Sheriff Judd recently ignited a new controversy. This time the sheriff is gaining national publicity by exploiting the impending tragedy of Hurricane Irma barreling toward the Florida coastline.
Shelter at County Jail
Judd announced recently that he would jail any and all “wanted people seeking shelter due to Hurricane Irma.” The sheriff tweeted out to his 66,000 followers that he would “gladly escort” those with outstanding arrest warrants to the “safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail.”
Sheriff Judd’s politicized tweets were met with immediate criticism.
The ACLU of Florida said the sheriff should “focus on preparing for Irma, not burnishing your Joe Arpaio-style ‘tough cop’ credentials with irresponsible tweets.”
The ACLU pointed out that people in the community with arrest warrants “are low-level offenders and pose no threat in a shelter.”
Many twitter users responded to Sheriff Judd’s plans by saying he is trying to discourage people from seeking safety in shelters.
Equating Evacuees with Child Predators
Judd’s spokesperson, Carrie Horstman, defended the sheriff’s actions by equating those people with arrest warrants to child molesters.
“We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders [and] predators,” said Horstman, “period.” Sheriff Grady Judd responded to criticism of his threats to those in need of shelter by saying, “[y]es, we arrest those with outstanding criminal warrants wherever we find them and shelters aren’t a sanctuary from arrest.”
State Representative Carlos Smith said the sheriff’s plan to check the IDs of all evacuees and run background checks on them is a dire message received “by the 18,000 undocumented persons in Polk County” who now feel threatened about going to any county shelter.
Sheriff Grady Judd Engages in Disaster “Price Gouging”
But we suspect Sheriff Judd has some ulterior motives; that he wants to engage in his own form of “price gouging” during a natural disaster.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department has a litany of “fees” that it charges the presumed innocent inmates placed in the local jail, like a $30 booking fee and a $2 daily “subsistence fee.”
Sheriff Judd had also put in place the following fees:
- Medical co-payment fees: $10 to see a nurse; $15 to see a doctor; $10 pharmacy co-pay; and $75 for off-site transportation for medical visits.
- Weekend inmate work program administration fee: $20 per day ($40 for the weekend).
- Weekday inmate work program administration fee: $8 per day ($40 per week).
- Hygiene kit/underwear fee: $1.50 for hygiene kit and $7.50 for five pair of underwear.
The Sheriff’s Department collects roughly $450,000 a year in inmate medical co-pay fees, $70,000 in hygiene kit fees, and “per diem” charges of more $300,000.
“We are going to make sure criminals pay to stay at the Polk County Jail,” Sheriff Judd said. “Every dollar we get from county prisoners is one less dollar we need from taxpayers.”
What the gung-ho sheriff did not say is that a majority of the inmates in his jail are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime. An arrestee is not a criminal. They are presumed innocent people. Will the sheriff pay restitution to those unfortunate individuals who are wrongfully incarcerated and later acquitted or exonerated?
We cannot help but think that Sheriff Judd is using Hurricane Irma to pad his inmate fees coffer, while boosting his national profile on the tough on crime, pro-Trump band-wagon. It is disgusting to see an elected official, sworn to serve and protect his community, make obvious attempts to profit on a natural disaster that is bringing despair and massive human suffering to all in its path.