TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two Gilchrist County sheriff’s deputies gunned down as they ate lunch last week will be laid to rest Tuesday.
Two other deputies in separate counties were shot at over the weekend, keeping law enforcement on edge.
In Marion County, a deputy trying to clear a crowd at about 2 a.m. Saturday took cover behind his squad car as shots rang out. Marion County Sheriff Bobby Woods posted pictures of the car on Facebook and wrote, “Enough is enough. All my people are on edge.”
The same is true across Florida and the nation, said Police Benevolent Association Executive Director Matt Puckett.
In addition to the early Saturday morning incident in Marion County, a deputy responding to an alarm early Monday morning was shot at as he arrived at a scene in Collier County. One person is in police custody.
Perhaps most notably, two Gilchrist sheriff’s deputies, shot and killed as they ate lunch last week, will be laid to rest Tuesday.
When asked if the current climate was hurting officer recruitment, Puckett answered yes.
“That a big problem on why we are not filling the ranks right now,” he said. “(It’s) the danger and the lack of manpower.”
About 1,000 Florida Highway Patrol troopers have left since 2010.
And a second disturbing trend is emerging: People are quitting before they even finish training, the PBA said.
“They are just making a conscious choice to say, ‘Even though I’m near the end, I’m done. I’m not going to complete this,’” Puckett said.
Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jack Campbell grew up in a law enforcement family. He said threats aren’t new, but the violence is concerning.
“We need to recognize that killing somebody because of who they are or what they do is totally anti-American,” Campbell said.
The FHP did not respond to a request about hiring and its vacancy rate. The Highway Patrol also declined to make recruits available at its training academy.