ORLANDO, Fla. – As the top law enforcement officer for the largest county in Central Florida, Orange County Sheriff John Mina has a lot of power and a lot of responsibility.
Mina joined News 6 anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to discuss the need for more deputies, the effectiveness of the new distracted driving bill and how he's working with sheriffs and police chiefs from around the country to reduce the number of mass shootings.
This is a portion of the one-on-one interview:
WARMOTH: Let's start with the need for deputies and what you would like to see as their starting salary.
MINA: As our county continues to grow -- we have all this growth and everyone wants to stay here and live here -- the need rises for more deputies. So, we're going to hire and additional 50 deputies per year. That includes attrition, the people who are already retiring, and increasing our staffing up to at least another 100 to 150. We're doing good retaining people. We hire about 200 people a year, but I would like to see our deputies near or at the level where other surrounding agencies are. I'm bound by what the mayor and commissioners allow in the budget, so we're working through that right now.
WARMOTH: Because if, say, someone wants to get into law enforcement, Orlando police has a little bit of a higher salary than Orange County sheriff. Just for people who might not know the difference there.
MINA: Yeah they do, but there are a lot of other factors that really bring us a little closer. They pay more into their pension and more for their insurance premium, so when you look at those types of numbers it's a little closer than just the base salary.
WARMOTH: Let's talk about some legislation that you would like to ultimately get passed. It's an idea right now, but you're trying to work with some local lawmakers to require local gun stores and pawn shops to lock up their guns before closing. Why is this so important?
MINA: It's so important because we just had another gun store burglary where people are just smashing glass and then taking the guns right off the rack. And they're not secured in any way. So, I'm asking some of our local legislators and even legislators throughout the state to come up with some type of legislation to help us out with that. It could be additional measures such as bollards in front of these glass doors or roll down doors -- even a safe. I realize for some gun stores it's going to be hard to put 400-500 guns away every night, but there are additional measures that we can take and I don't think all the gun stores and pawn shops that sell guns are living up to those high standards that we need.
WARMOTH: Does it seem like the word may be getting around that it's easy to get in and get out in a relatively quick manner and that's why so many are getting hit? It's a profitable business too, right?
MINA: Well, it's not mystery that these criminals who can't legally purchase a gun are getting them through these means. So, they're either the ones breaking into these stores or they're getting them from the groups who are breaking into the gun stores.
WARMOTH: There's a lot of talk right now about assault weapons. We have a Democratic presidential race going on and they all seem to want to ban the possession and sale of assault weapons throughout the country. Is that something that you believe would reduce the amount of mass shootings and maybe some of the deaths that go along with mass shootings?
MINA: Well, as you know and your viewers know, this is one of the most divisive issues in our country. I tell people this all the time that even in my own household, we can't come to a consensus on what to do. So, you can imagine how tough it is for our legislators. I think we need to focus on things that most Americans already want like red flag laws, so we can keep guns out of the hands of people who are in mental crisis or arrested and charged with domestic violence. Also, universal background checks. I think it's around 90% of people agree on that. Now, certainly there could be something done in the way we sell our assault weapons and maybe that's a limit on high-capacity magazines. I'm not for any type of mandatory buy-back or anything like that. I heard this the other day that there's already 15 million estimated assault-type weapons already out there. But something needs to be done. Our legislators need to get together and do that. And whether that's a ban or whether that's stopping the sale of high-capacity magazines, those could certainly help reduce the mass shootings.
WARMOTH: The Targeted Violent Task Force is something that you're a part of, right? Can you explain what this task force is?
MINA: I'm a member of the governing board of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and as part of that function I'm going to co-chair this task force. We're going to have several meetings in Washington DC, there will be one here in Orlando that I'm going to host, and then probably one in Chicago at the main conference. So, what we're going to be doing in these different meetings is calling in all these experts on violent extremists, on gun violence, law enforcement, psychiatric to come in and testify and give us some recommendations. At the end, we're going to put those recommendations together and give it to our legislators and say, "This is what the International Association of Chiefs of Police think should be done based on all this testimony from these different experts. And here's what we recommend our country going forward."
WARMOTH: The texting and driving law went into effect. On October 1, it'll be hands-free in construction and school zones. Are your deputies out on the roads seeing people texting and driving, and are they pulling them over?
MINA: It's still a little too early to tell. We haven't seen that many citations issued. I'm sure when the hands-free goes into effect we'll target those areas. When school started we were out in force to ensure people weren't texting in school zones. We have to keep our kids safe. So, I'm hoping after a year or two we see a decline in rear-end crashes because that's what happens. That's how you can tell people are texting. And maybe a decrease in some of our more serious accidents that involved distracted driving.
Watch the full interview Sunday at 8 a.m. on News 6.