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East County Thursday, May 23, 2019 9 months ago

Q&A: Meet Manatee County's new sheriff

Lakewood Ranch becomes home to a Manatee County Sheriff substation and hub for its several tactical units. Capt. Stanley Schaeffer is the man in charge.
by: Eric Snider Contributor

There’s a new sheriff’s captain in town. 

On Jan. 18, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office opened a Lakewood Ranch substation at 14544 Arbor Green Trail, in a former Lennar Homes sales center. The man in charge is Capt. Stanley Schaeffer, a 24-year veteran of the department. 

Schaeffer grew up in Cincinnati and in 1982 moved with his father to Sarasota. He’s a Sarasota High School alum who, upon graduating, took stints working at Winn-Dixie and in landscaping before signing up for the police academy at Manatee Technical Institute. 

“My father was an avid shooter and firearms instructor in the Army,”  Schaeffer recalls. “He belonged to a gun club, and we’d go down there to shoot quite a bit. There was a lot of law enforcement [people] there. I had it in the back of my head that one day I’d seek law enforcement.”

After getting certified, he spent a couple of years in the Bradenton Police Department but saw a better growth opportunity with the Sheriff’s Office. He started with regular patrol and spent time with the Community-Oriented Policing Unit before earning a spot on the SWAT team. Schaeffer spent 19 years — four as commander — with SWAT, departing in 2015 after he was appointed captain.

Schaeffer then served as commander of the District 2 patrol until recently being named captain of the Selective Enforcement Division, which he now runs from the Lakewood Ranch substation.

"With this job, you cannot get out of bed and have your head dropped, with a ‘God-I-gotta-go-to-work’ attitude and come to work and hate it. You have to enjoy coming to work."

— Capt. Stanley Schaeffer


What operations are being run out of the substation under your command?

Traffic, the aviation unit, the mounted unit, school resource officers, the marine unit, the canine unit — all the toys. Most of them are headquartered elsewhere, but we command out of this office.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

This job is never boring. There’s something different every day. Routine traffic stops aren’t routine anymore. With this job, you cannot get out of bed and have your head dropped, with a “God-I-gotta-go-to-work” attitude and come to work and hate it. You have to enjoy coming to work.

How about your least favorite?

[Pauses] Dealing with personnel issues — like when someone has to be disciplined. It’s not a fun part of the job, but it has to be done.

People who live in Lakewood Ranch may think the substation is meant as a headquarters or policing Lakewood Ranch. Is that the case?

Manatee County is organized into three [policing] districts. Lakewood Ranch is in District 3, so that responsibility mostly falls on District 3 personnel. Those deputies sometimes use our office here, although we don’t encourage them to come off the street.

Does the environment in the Lakewood Ranch substation suit you at this point in your career?

Oh yeah. It’s a lot quieter. I don’t have to hear gunshots during the day. I do get out in the field, though. We get email complaints from citizens about the traffic unit. The sheriff will call me, and I’ll go sit in a car for a couple of hours at that location and run the radar, so I can get some firsthand knowledge.

Lakewood Ranch is not known for its mean streets. What are some crime trends that residents should be aware of?

The really big issue right now is kids — age 16 into their 20s — showing up in a car, walking down the street from house to house checking if the doors are unlocked. If so, they go through your car and if there’s valuables in it, they’ll take them. Anything from loose change to firearms. And, this may be hard to believe, but a lot of people leave their keys in their car. So, they’ll steal the car. A lot of times, perpetrators aren’t from our county. They come down from Hillsborough or St. Pete in a stolen car, find another car, steal it and drive back where they came from.

Capt. Stanley Schaeffer (Photo by Heidi Kurpiela)

Any other areas that you’re focusing on?

Traffic is a huge problem, and that’s countywide. Because of our population growth, there’s a big burden on traffic enforcement. We have 10 deputies assigned to our traffic unit and one spends 90% of the day reviewing red light camera violations. The sheriff has asked the county for an increase in deputies, and we plan to assign more to the traffic unit.

I would guess people don’t think of traffic as a serious crime issue. They’re probably more concerned about not getting a ticket. Can you describe the importance of traffic patrol?

Traffic enforcement reduces the number of crashes and injuries, which affects insurance premiums and, of course, public health. When I was coming in today, there was a crash on State Road 70 that took up two lanes of traffic. The bottleneck backed up 70, so now people are delayed getting to their jobs. That’s just an example.

Are you a fundamentally different person as a law enforcement officer than you are away from the job?

Of course. You can relax a little more. You’re not as guarded. I tell everyone who starts on this job, “You walk outside this building, you’re on videotape. Have your head on a swivel. Cops get attacked. Be alert to what’s going on.” When you’re away, you get to decompress from that.

Let’s talk about leadership. There’s not a lot of people who rise to the rank of captain. How did you find yourself on this track?

I spent some time as a field trainer, training new recruits. I realized that I was pretty good at it. When I’d see a deputy doing the job as a product of what I taught, I thought I could teach larger groups. You have to have five years of service in before you’re eligible for promotion. I decided to take the test. I thought, ‘If I can teach one deputy, why not train or teach a squad?”

Can you shed some light on your time in community-oriented policing?

I did that from around 1998 to 2001. We had three units and I was in the one in a three-square-mile area that had the highest crime rate in the county — in the Oneco area. We didn’t drive around in cars. We’d ride bikes or were on foot, most of the time interacting with street dealers. Those people don’t view police in a favorable way. Our job was to arrest them when it was called for, of course, but also to create relationships. We’d strike up conversations, maybe toss the football around, goof around with them.

What do you like to do in your down time?

A few buddies and I have 119 acres in Alabama, where we go hunting and horseplay on four-wheelers in the woods. There’s a cabin that was moved onto the property in the early ’50s. We try to go during [deer] hunting season and any time we can get the heck out of here. We try to go at least once every two months. We’re going this weekend, actually. It’s not hunting season, so we’ll work on stuff like taking care of trees that fall on the trails. We’ll rebuild a bridge that crosses a creek.

If someone in Lakewood Ranch wants to interact with the Sheriff’s Office, whether it’s with a problem or complaint, should they do so at the substation?

Come on in. There is a deputy assigned at the front desk. You can walk in and talk or do it over the phone.

This may be a little glib, but I gotta ask. We’ve all watched police captains on TV shows. Do you ever shout, “Smith, Jones — my office!”?

[Chuckles] No. I don’t lead like that. I’ll say that none of our captains are like that. They’re down to earth and like to get out there and go do it with the troops. We’re pretty people-oriented. It works better that way. The troops have a tough enough job as it is.

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