Sheriff Candidate Alexander Vows To Restore Trust
With the retirement of David Morgan, the Escambia County Sheriff’s race is between two former Pensacola police chiefs.
A 32-year veteran of law enforcement, David Alexander headed the PPD from 2015 to 2017, when he was forced to step down when his state DROP retirement program tenure expired. He says DROP does not affect running for public office.
“As I was approaching the end of my career, I had been approached earlier about running for office,” said Alexander. “People that really wanted to see things change, and they liked what they saw through community policing in the city. Oftentimes people would say, ‘I wish we had that in the county.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s a leadership issue.’”
Averse to what Alexander calls the viciousness and lack of accountability in politics, he launched his campaign for sheriff with the slogan, “Professionalism Over Politics.”
“I was asked in 2016 to consider running for sheriff, and I felt like I really needed to finish what I was doing as chief of police,” Alexander said. “Because in terms of resume-wise, my accomplishments need to be clearly documented and it needed to be on the record that I finished my tenure there, and I didn’t just abruptly jump up and abandon ship.”
During Sheriff David Morgan’s three terms, Alexander says there are things that ECSO has gotten right, and other issues that still need some work. He says it’s a question of consistency.
“If you go back into the news, you’re going to find out there are so many news stories in the last 12 years that lead back to this reoccurring theme there’s a lack of leadership, a lack of accountability, and a lack of forward thinking in terms of how we need to be responding to our community, rather than being in an adversarial relationship with the community,” said Alexander. “And that’s what we have right now”
If elected, topping the to-do list for Alexander would be evaluating the ECSO’s in-house operation.
“And we would find out what’s working right, [and] what’s working wrong,” said Alexander. “Sometimes you have policies already in place, but they’re not being followed. It’s about making sure we’re functioning according to the way designed to, and does that design reflect a 21st century and a progressive sheriff’s department that the public is paying for.”
That, contends the former chief, would go far in addressing what he considers the biggest public safety threat in Escambia County – the lack of trusting relationships between ECSO and the public. Or, quoting leadership author Steven Covey, “Policing at the speed of trust.”
“When trust is high we don’t need a whole lot of fancy programs and money, because we have trust,” Alexander said. “But when trust is low, we’re going to use a lot of money because you have to bring in resources, somehow, to build a basic fundamental trust that the public is supposed to have in their law enforcement.”
One of the cornerstones of rebuilding that basic trust, he says, is transparency, and not some “fancy program.” Alexander’s plan calls for bringing “three ships” into port.
“The first ship will be ‘leadership;’ that’s where we’ll look at the organizational transformation,” said Alexander. “The second ship would be ‘relationship;’ through community policing which is scanning, analyzing, responding, and assessment. The third ship would be ‘partnership;’ and if we’re going to work together and communicate together, I believe it will bring greater levels of success.”
Former Pensacola police chief David Alexander was asked if elected, would his Republican opponent, ECSO Chief Deputy Chip Simmons be retained? He says – stay tuned.
“The goals and objectives of my administration will be clear; and as long as those goals and objectives are complied with, and they are worked toward, I believe we can find ways to work together,” Alexander said. “But I wouldn’t rush to say that either way, because I don’t know what the mindset of my opponent is.”
Money has been a challenge for the Alexander campaign, having raised about $97,000, according to the latest financial statement. Simmons has banked roughly three times that amount.