Simmons Prepped To Be Next Escambia County Sheriff
After a dozen years, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan is stepping down, with voters to decide his successor on Nov. 3. The Republican nominee is Chief Deputy Chip Simmons.
Beginning his career in law enforcement in 1984, Simmons joined PPD two years later and has worked in Patrol, Investigations, Narcotics, SWAT, and Public Information. He retired as chief in 2015, and was hired as Escambia County Chief Deputy the following year. He was asked if he was brought in for the express purpose of running to succeed David Morgan.
“I can’t say that,” said Simmons. “Just because you come over somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean you stay there forever. I really just wanted to help the agency; I wanted to make sure that the community that I live in, the community I grew up in, was the best that it could be.”
Simmons points to his tenure leading PPD for what he feels is the reason he was brought aboard ECSO.
“We brought in body cameras, we became accredited under my watch; we reduced crime under my watch,” said Simmons. “Sheriff Morgan thought that there were some things that we could bring – good ideas. We were effective in bringing these things.”
Public safety, says Simmons, is his number one priority and that’s shared by both neighborhood associations and individuals with whom they speak. The one issue that threatens public safety, he contends, is drug-related violent crime.
“And because I have a lot of experience in combatting drug trafficking and working on federal task forces specifically drug traffickers,” said Simmons. “As well as my experience on a SWAT team with violent crime apprehension, that makes me the lone candidate with that kind of experience.”
Besides public safety, Simmons days there are other priorities that will get his attention if elected: one is enforcement, the other is engagement.
“When we look at the engagement portion, it is basically communication,” Simmons said. “The sheriff’s office will be partnering with our community, with every community, and develop that unity that we’re always looking for. We’re going to look to open up neighborhoods, precincts and substations; we’re going to be responsive to every community in Escambia County.”
And when he says “every community,” he includes those of color.
“Every person – Black, white, Hispanic, male, female – everyone wants a safe neighborhood, a safe environment to raise their children,” said Simmons. “We’re going to make sure that they have the same engagement; they have the same opportunities, to coordinate with their law enforcement agencies.”
One of the programs begun by Simmons as Pensacola police chief, body cams on officers, will be implemented by the Sheriff’s Office if he’s elected.
“I was the only law enforcement leader to bring body cameras to a law enforcement agency in this entire region,” Simmons said. “I will bring that request and the manpower that would require, and the storage required to the Board of County Commissioners and say, ‘This is what we need as a community, and I would like for you to fund it.’ And hopefully we can work together to get these things done.”
In his closing statement, Chip Simmons says the election boils down to experience within the ECSO.
“Some of us have the preparation, the education; [and] some of us have done the job,” Simmons concluded. “Quite frankly, no other candidate has anywhere near the experience; no other candidate has anywhere near a proven past performance. I have done a number of different things that will allow me to hit the ground running.”