In the natural course of events, employees retire, move on to other jobs, and (sadly) occasionally succumb to health issues or trauma. In law enforcement, this “circle of life” is no different. A deputy may not start working with a law enforcement agency with thoughts of one day leaving, but the lifecycle of a deputy varies with health, personal fulfillment, financial needs, leadership connection, and career aspirations. When a deputy retires or leaves for any reason, or when demand and budgets allow, an agency must be prepared to populate these open positions. At the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, we are continually working to ensure that the bravest, brightest, and best law enforcement officers are on the street and serving our community. On this day, we have the privilege of meeting with three cadets who are working their way through the Florida Law Enforcement Academy prior to becoming a deputy with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. As we gather around a conference room table with the cadets and their Recruiting Liaison Deputy William Smith, it is immediately obvious that each of these cadets brings significantly different tools and backgrounds to the table.
We ask the first deputy-in-training, Cadet Fay about his motivation for joining the department—specifically, why in the world would he want to go into law enforcement in this current climate. With a slight gleam in his eye, he shares, “I learned about teamwork from my early years of playing ice hockey, and then my time in the Army solidified that foundation. My mom was an officer in the NYPD as I was growing up, so I’ve been surrounded by police officers and police work for most of my life.” As we clarify Cadet Fay’s answer, we learn that his mother was part of the Ground Zero response in the days following 9/11.
We ask Cadet Mason the same question, and she demurs, “I don’t have a great story like that. I’ve never been in the military or had family members in law enforcement. In fact, I’ve kind of gone through the wringer in my life. Growing up, I was around a lot of difficult situations, and it caused me to always want to help others avoid hurt. I can do that as a deputy.” Turns out that she has a really good story.
Cadet Quinquinio (we had to ask him to spell that) is another product of the Army. Having served in the Army Reserves as an M.P., Cadet Quinquinio is no stranger to law enforcement. When asked what drew him to CCSO, he stated, “I have a love for serving my country and caring for my family. This county is a great place to live and serve. I love the fair, the parks, and the friendly people.”
As we dug deeper with the cadets regarding the positive qualities that they have witnessed within the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, they shared comments like, “there is no talk of defunding the police here—the community is very supportive.” Another shared, “they (deputies) keep each other accountable.” Cadet Mason adds, “I work as a waitress while I’m attending the academy, and I constantly see customers picking up the check for deputies and officers who eat at our restaurant. The guests often want to remain anonymous, but they always say that they do it because they appreciate law enforcement so much.”
The conversation changes to what action, attitude, or characteristic makes a good deputy. Cadet Fay is the first to speak up, “A good deputy is a stabilizer, supporter, and enforcer.” Cadet Quinquinio quickly adds, “I think accountability is so important. Whether a situation is good or bad, there needs to be an effort to seek the best for all.” Cadet Mason states, “I think a good deputy has to have patience. A good personality doesn’t hurt either.”
At this point, we turn to Deputy Smith and ask him to share the characteristics that he has observed in those individuals who have successfully transitioned from the academy to the street as full-fledged deputies. “Basically, people need somebody to listen to them. Even if you can’t fix the problem, they need to know that you care. I’m proud that my entire time on patrol, I never received any complaints. I always tried to show empathy and remember that sometimes people are calling us on the worst day of their lives. We cannot forget that.”
Glancing across the table at these enthusiastic and balanced cadets, one cannot help but think how fortunate Clay County is to soon have these men and women protecting and serving our community. Before we end our time with these good people, we couldn’t resist asking the recruiter, “Deputy Smith? Deputy Will Smith? Have you slapped anyone recently?” (a reference to the Will Smith/Chris Rock slapping incident during the 2022 Oscars Award show). Without missing a beat, Deputy Smith responds, “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth!” Laughter breaks out in the room as Deputy Smith adds, “I’m telling you the truth, my first beat as a new deputy was in the Bellair area. I’m pretty sure they did that on purpose.” Indeed, he was the Fresh Prince of Bellair.
Note: After meeting with these cadets, we have decided to follow them through the academy, their field training, and their ultimate assignment as members of the Sheriff’s Department. Please watch for future articles on their progress.