- July 15, 2020
Name: Kurt Hoffman
Why are you running for office?
I have lived in Englewood and Venice for almost 40 years. This is my community, and I am invested in doing all I can to make it a safe place to live and work. Sheriff Knight and I have launched innovative programs that have reduced crime, helped our most vulnerable populations and made our community significantly safer. It will be incumbent upon me to continue those programs and expand them where appropriate to ensure we have a great quality of life in Sarasota County. I have spent my entire adult life in public service and have been blessed to obtain the education, experience and proven track record to contribute in a positive way to the health and well-being of our community and citizens. I believe in constitutional liberties and want to ensure that our citizens rights are always paramount in how we police this community.
What are three priorities you hope to accomplish, if elected?
If elected, what would be the most significant changes you would want to implement in the operations of the Sheriff’s Office?
Our intelligence-led policing model has reduced violent crime in Sarasota County by 52% since 2009. The future challenge will be developing innovative policing strategies that build on the successes of the intelligence-led policing model to further drive down crime and improve quality of life issues for our citizens. I would like to see this accomplished through countywide crime fighting models that work in partnership with local municipal police departments and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
Every sheriff wants more money in his/her budget. On a scale of 10, with 10 being perfect, where would you rate the annual funding allocated to the Sheriff’s Office?
I would rate our funding at 9.5 out of 10. The Sarasota County Commission has always funded the sheriff’s office in a thoughtful and responsible manner. We have worked in partnership with the commission to develop budgets that are fiscally conservative and results-driven. We have returned more than $5 million in tax payer dollars to the County Commission when the funds were not needed.
Discussions arise now and then about needing another jail in Sarasota County. What is your position on that?
We absolutely do not need a new jail if we develop a community corrections facility that can be designed to specifically address the issues of our community that lead to an increased jail population, such as mental health issues, addiction recovery, veterans programs and job skill training. These programs have led to a jail population that was near 1,200 inmates to just under 800 since Sheriff Knight took office in 2009. These programs work and can have a significant impact on crime in our community if a proper, less expensive facility can be built. This type of rehabilitative approach will have a significant long-term financial savings both from a human standpoint and from a capital improvement standpoint. Our recent evaluation of our jail programming shows that the addiction recovery pod, veterans pod and reentry pods are working to change lives and reduce recidivism.
Would you support consolidating the city of Sarasota Police Department with the Sheriff’s Office? Wouldn’t that save taxpayers money by eliminating overlapping positions?
This is a decision that will be made by non-law enforcement elected officials from the two jurisdictions involved. Statutorily, the sheriff is designated as the chief law enforcement officer in the county and has authority in all municipalities. I would not advocate for consolidation. The municipalities of this county have long-lasting relationships in those communities they serve. Consolidation often attempts to merge different policing philosophies, priorities and personnel into a “one size fits all” product. Each of our municipalities and the Sheriff’s Office are uniquely different and maintaining local control over how your police agency protects its community seems to me to be one best left to the voters through their elected officials. That being said, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office would be committed to finding ways to save money through strategic partnerships of police services, such as countywide drug lab, countywide DNA lab, countywide disaster response and sharing of other resources that would save taxpayer dollars. We already do this in many respects, and there are areas where we could expand the collaboration.