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North Central Florida PBA launches site to encourage public to join deputies’ fight against Sheriff Watson

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The North Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, the organization that bargains for Alachua County Sheriff’s Office deputies, has launched a web site that encourages members of the public to add public pressure to Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., to come back to the bargaining table.

The union recently filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the Sheriff after months of stalled negotiations. The union says that Watson has not been willing to change anything in the terms he gave them in September 2021; those terms were voted down by the union in October.

Over 200 employees have left the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office since Sheriff Watson was sworn in. According to the PBA: “Since January of 2021, the Sheriff’s Office has lost 18 dispatchers while hiring only 1. The Sheriff’s Office lost 52 Jail Detention Officers, while hiring only 13. The Sheriff’s Office has lost 40 Deputy Sheriffs, while hiring only 14, and the Sheriff’s Office lost 63 support staff members, while hiring only 35. Our uniform patrol division is operating at critical staffing levels more often than not and the Court Security Bureau is at or below critical staffing levels daily. These staffing shortages have a direct impact on public safety and can potentially delay our response times during life and death situations.”

NCFPBA “call[s] on the citizens of Alachua County to send a message to Sheriff Watson Jr. and our County Commissioners to support safe staffing levels at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. It’s time to offer competitive benefits packages to retain the best men and women in our department, who keep our county safe each and every day. And it’s time for Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. to invest in public safety!”

The site provides a form that sends an email to Sheriff Watson, Alachua County Commissioners, local state representatives, and Governor DeSantis. Citizens who wish to send the email are required to provide a name and fill out a captcha. Email addresses and other contact information are not collected.

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