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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Editorials

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd muddies the debate on “stand your ground”

Published:

Turns out the “unanimous” support among sheriffs for the state’s “stand your ground” law isn’t quite as clear-cut as Polk Sheriff Grady Judd would have you believe.

Judd is president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, and he turned an amateurish attempt to gauge support for the law into a press release professing unanimity among the state’s sheriffs. The release said the sheriffs support the law “as it is currently written.”

In the aftermath, several sheriffs have bravely stepped forward to say they support the concept of the law, but think some of its provisions need to be reconsidered. They said the vote taken at the association’s meeting earlier this month was confusing and didn’t reflect those concerns.

Judd’s misleading assertion matters because House Speaker Will Weatherford has opened the door for legislative hearings on “stand your ground” and called on law enforcement to make their concerns known.

The publicity-loving Judd should issue another release clarifying the vote and then develop a meaningful assessment of his membership’s thoughts about how the law could be improved.

Among those he should speak with is Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who told Tribune reporter William March that the conference vote did not represent unanimous support for the law, “as it is currently written.”

Not to mention the sheriffs from some of the state’s largest counties weren’t present for the vote. That includes Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, and the sheriffs of Orange and Broward counties. Like Gualtieri, Gee supports the law’s concept, but thinks it gives broad protections to people who may be undeserving.

In particular, some sheriffs are concerned about the protections afforded to aggressors who begin a confrontation and end it with deadly force, only to claim they had no duty to retreat under the law.

Their concerns are shared by the state’s association of prosecuting attorneys, which has consistently opposed the law since its passage.

Weatherford says he supports the law but wants to know whether law enforcement has a way to fix any flaws that open it to abuse, while ensuring innocent people are able to defend themselves.

Gualtieri thinks the law should be changed to make it clear that primary aggressors, or those who use deadly force unnecessarily against someone who is unarmed, are not protected by “stand your ground.”

It’s a reasonable position, and one that should be heard when lawmakers meet next spring.

In any event, lawmakers shouldn’t take Judd’s grand public pronouncements as the last word on the subject.

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