FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said the use-of-force is anytime a deputy goes ‘hands on’ during an encounter in his agency has dropped while the crime rate has also fallen.
"If I recall correctly there were 28 incidents of use-of-force in 2016 under the former Sheriff," Staly said. "And last year we had 15, so that's down 38%. I attribute that to a lot of things, first off we do a lot of the escalation training with our employees and our new hires."
Staly also said in more than a dozen situations, his deputies would have been justified had they used deadly force - killing a suspect.
“Since I’ve been Sheriff we probably could have been justified legally to use deadly force probably 12 to 15 times and we were able to deescalate those every time,” Staly said.
Staly said that builds trust at a time when there's a nationwide growing distrust of law enforcement.
Several protests pushing for police reform occurred in Flagler County, but Staly said they were minimal because of the relationship the Sheriff’s Office has with the community.
Instead, people donated room fulls of food to show their support and appreciation, Staly said.
"We are policing with the community and we're not policing the community," Staly said. "And I think that's where some agencies go wrong when they police the community."
Staly credits his "guardianship policing" program for the positive relationship with the community.
“It’s where everybody in the community takes ownership of making the community safe,” Staly said. “So you do that by engaging the community and we do a lot of that with social media. Before COVID-19, we were able to do a lot of interacting with the community, now we try to do it distantly.”
The Sheriff has found success with his "Fugitive Friday Bingo" video clips, using a Bingo machine to draw the number of the "unlucky" wanted fugitive of the week.
The videos, posted on Facebook and Youtube, are viewed thousands of times.