Let's have a Monday conversation about communication from the Sheriff's Office to the public.
On Sunday someone led me to a pair of Facebook posts, each with dozens of responses, that made reference to an supposed shooting Friday night in a neighborhood off Dunnellon Road north of Crystal River.
I’m not passing on the rumors, but residents were clear in what they witnessed:
Ambulances and sheriff’s cars crammed the neighborhood. A sheriff’s helicopter hovered nearby. Crime scene tape everywhere.
As of 10:30 p.m. Sunday, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office had not a word on its Facebook page about this very public incident (other than a citizen asking about it).
So, how do I know about it? The magic of social media, of course.
Numerous people posted in great detail on the Citrus County Word of Mouth Facebook page over the weekend about the goings on in their neighborhood Friday night. I grabbed the photo with today’s blog off one of those posts.
“...Police, ambulances, and crime scene tape up around the area. Parents check on your kids!”
That’s one post. I’m excluding details but there’s quite the dialogue among neighbors on this Facebook page describing what they saw: someone in handcuffs, another person on the ground, ambulances treating wounded, reports of gunfire.
Neighbors are the worst witnesses, and everyone knows social media isn’t the place for factual accuracy.
But it’s clear something of significance happened in a Citrus County community and citizens want to know why the sheriff’s office isn’t telling them about it.
The sheriff’s Facebook page's most recent post Sunday afternoon was about the Explorer’s Program. There were three comments. One read: “Still nothing about the shooting in my neighborhood on Friday night.”
Now, just so it’s clear: I know nothing more about what happened than what I read on Facebook.
I'm not trying to verify what these folks are saying. I left their details out on purpose.
Here’s my question: Does the sheriff’s office have any sort of public obligation to explain what happened Friday night? That’s a serious question, by the way, that gets to the heart of the matter: communication.
Let’s say the Dunnellon Road neighbors are wrong. Just a lot of commotion, no gunfire. Neighborhood rumors and nothing else. Logic suggests otherwise. That many people don't get worked up over nothing.
This is the second time in the last two months (that we know of) when neighbors who find themselves in the middle of a crime scene wonder why there’s nothing on the sheriff’s social media about it.
I usually wait on three random acts before deciding anything is a pattern, but even two instances of keeping the public clueless about a very public law enforcement scene is a head-scratcher.
You have to wonder, why? Is there a law enforcement reason? It really is quite perplexing.
By the way, it may look otherwise but I'm not telling the man how to do his job. Voters elected Sheriff Mike Prendergast twice to office and he runs the agency as he sees fit.
And his predecessors weren't exactly perfect at this either. Big difference: This is the age of social media, instant information. It's a lot easier getting that stuff out to the public than ever before.
That said, I’m putting it out there now: Let’s try to make this 2024 sheriff’s race a little more community-focused than in past years. I don’t know if that’s Prendergast, Calvin Adams Jr., Dave Vincent or someone else down the line, but we sure could use a discussion about the sheriff and public communication.
Something happened Friday night in a neighborhood off Dunnellon Road. Huge law enforcement presence. Neighbors are questioning what it’s about.
I don't know if the sheriff's office should have had something on its Facebook page about this incident or not. I'm really not looking for trouble. I'm looking to start community conversation in an area we haven't really tread.
Simply: Do we get enough public info from the sheriff's office about incidents like this? I mean...if you're in that neighborhood, are you looking for something official? And if so, is that expectation unrealistic?
Let's talk about it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.