Natural disasters often bring out the very best in people, like all the Boat Heroes in Texas, many of whom didn’t even need boats to be heroes. But then you get people like Sheriff Grady Judd, of Polk County, who let it be known on Twitter Wednesday that with Hurricane Irma on the way, he would not tolerate any evil-doers in county shelters. First he warned “sex offenders/predators” they wouldn’t be welcome, then anyone with an outstanding warrant, because if you were a nice law-abiding family headed for a shelter, would you want YOUR children bedded down near someone wanted for failure to appear for a parking lot fender-bender? YOU WOULD NOT!
One good thing about the interwebs: If a public official does or says something suitably stupid, people will often notice. Judd’s tweets went viral, and by Thursday he was getting a bit tetchy about the whole thing:
“Never before did I think that we’d be beat up for giving people a warning and keeping people safe,” he told local television crews. “But hey, that’s okay.”
Look, here is Sheriff Judd casually conflating “everyone with a warrant” with “sexual predators” for Tampa Bay’s Fox affiliate:
We like how he explains that he’s really just all about giving people information, not grandstanding like a Tough Guy Sheriff who hopes maybe he’ll be lauded for Gittin’ Tough On Crime. And he really can’t see the fuss, since he’s only concerned for everyone’s safety — even those scofflaws who might have a warrant out for their serial parking violations. You see, since he warned them Wednesday, crimers had a choice: They could get right with the Law, or go seek shelter somewhere else that doesn’t care if fugitives are among them.
A spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Carrie Horstman, explained to the Orlando Sentinel it’s best for everyone with a warrant of any kind to turn themselves in, just to be on the safe side:
Horstman added officers don’t have a way of seeing what crime the warrant is for, so it’s possible those with non-violent misdemeanor offenses could be arrested.
“Officers are legally obligated to take a person into custody if they have a warrant,” she said.
Judd said in preparation for the hurricane, fugitives should turn themselves into the jail because “it’s a secure location.”
Horstman also emphasized, like her boss, that this is all about making the public feel safe, so they won’t worry about their little kids bedding down in a shelter where someone might be a sexual predator. At least one that’s got a warrant out. And if that means a few people with nonviolent offenses ride out the storm in a jail cell, well, so much the better: “We hope it actually leads to more people turning themselves in,” she said, apparently because she has very limited experience with actual human beings.
Still, there’s a pony of good news buried in all that horseshit: Horstman made it very clear the ID checks are for warrants only, and the deputies at shelters will not be looking at anyone’s immigration status. (Prepare for a tale of some idiot who stayed away from a shelter because they fear illegal immigrants more than a goddamn hurricane.)
The American Civil Liberties Union, always on the side of crimers, haters, sex fiends, and people who didn’t pay their fines for skipping out on a court date for failure to use a turn signal, was not pleased:
That seems awfully irresponsible of them, since anyone knows that most people with warrants out for their arrests are serial murderers and sex offenders, aren’t they? Let’s just say they are, so we can get reelected sheriff.
Sheriff Judd is actually a tad notorious for incidents in which he decided there might not be enough crime in his county, so he went out and created some, like the time in 2013-2014 he planned to arrest the parents of two girls he was sure had cyberbullied a teen girl into killing herself, although eventually all the charges were dropped in the case, and there was virtually no evidence of bullying at all.
A local TV news investigation also noted that Polk County was really doing well with asset forfeiture cases in which the sheriff’s office seized vehicles from men who turned out not actually to be sex offenders, although Sheriff Judd
repeatedly said men seeking children online was a problem in Central Florida, but provided few examples of actual children being approached.
In fact, the Justice Department complained that while Judd’s office received a lot of federal grant money for leading a Central Florida “Internet Crimes Against Children” (ICAC) task force, Polk County routinely took 20 to 30 days to follow up on tips, leading the DOJ to review the grants. The task force did a really crappy job of finding actual predators, although it tried real hard to entrap men who’d placed or responded to “Casual Encounters” personal ads on Craigslist. Here’s a f’rinstance (from another county, but remember, Polk County was the lead agency for the whole task force):
A 19-year-old man in Orange Co. was accused of soliciting the guardian of a 13-year-old decoy to arrange sex with her. But the evidence proved differently, as the man was merely responding to an innocuous ad from a 26-year-old woman, which was posted by law enforcement. The detective later tried to convince the man to have sex with the woman’s “younger sister,” even though he showed little interest.
According to notes from the prosecutor, “this is a tough case” because of “entrapment issues.” The man chatted with what he believed to be a 26-year-old woman for five days and the “Law Enforcement Officer suggest(ed) sex first on 2nd day.” The defendant said several times he wasn’t interested in the 13-year-old, even suggesting he bring a younger teenager boy for the girl when the detective kept bringing the teenager into the discussion. The prosecutor also noted the “law enforcement officer again suggests illegal sex 2 more times” but the defendant was non-committal.
Ultimately, after hundreds of text messages, the man agreed to sex with both females, and was arrested upon arrival. The state declined to prosecute, but the accusations and man’s name remain public record.
So, there’s your wave of sex crimes in Central Florida. While the task force didn’t catch any real sex crimers, it was awfully good at seizing the assets of men it entrapped:
[In] one January 2014 sting where the Clearwater Police Department (CPD) and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) arrested 35 men in a single weekend, CPD seized 19 cars as their own under Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.
So maybe Sheriff Judd has a couple of different motives here: He wants to keep the children of Polk County safe from imaginary sex crimers, and maybe — if one is terribly jaded and cynical — he’s looking to boost some “criminal” property belonging to all those dangerous traffic-ticket thugs. It would be irresponsible not to speculate.
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