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Florida Sheriffs Association Takes Legal Action Against Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners for Violating the Florida Constitution

August 10, 2022

To uphold the Florida Constitution, the institution of the Office of Sheriff, and the clear mandate of Florida’s voters, the Florida Sheriffs Association today filed a lawsuit against the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners.

In June of this year, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution that directly violates Article VIII(1)(d) of the Florida Constitution, requiring that there be an elected constitutional sheriff in every Florida county, including Miami-Dade, and prohibiting the transfer of a sheriff’s duties. A sheriff has law enforcement jurisdiction throughout the county and is the primary provider of police services in the unincorporated portion of the county. The Florida Constitution prohibits counties from abolishing, changing the term of office, or transferring the duties of the Office of Sheriff to any other county official or entity.

The County Commission’s resolution requires the Miami-Dade Police Department, which operates under the Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners, to provide law enforcement services in unincorporated Miami-Dade County after the new Miami-Dade County Sheriff takes office on January 7, 2025. This action is an unlawful transfer of the sheriff’s power to another county entity.

In November 2018, a supermajority of Florida's voters passed constitutional Amendment 10 ensuring that every Florida county will have an independently elected sheriff as its chief law enforcement officer. The will of the voters must be honored. The Florida Constitution and Florida Statute are clear. The Board of County Commissioner’s actions not only violate the clear and unequivocal provisions of the Florida Constitution by illegally transferring the sheriff’s duties, but they improperly constrain the sheriff’s ability to serve the interest of the citizens of Miami-Dade County.

Further, the effect of the Board’s action is financially devastating to the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County. Funding both a Miami-Dade Police Department that has its own chief and falls under the power and control of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners, as well as the constitutionally mandated Sheriff’s Office with an independent sheriff, is duplicitous, needless, and wasteful spending of public funds.

“The Board of County Commissioner’s action is a constitutional violation that must be remedied. Not only is the resolution unlawful, it contradicts what 62% of the voters in unincorporated Miami-Dade County voted for—an independently elected sheriff as their police provider,” said FSA Legislative Chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “We met with the Mayor and Commissioners prior to the Board’s action to express our concerns because we want Miami-Dade County to be set up for success when it comes to public safety, accountability, and protecting the residents’ rights to elect their constitutional officers. It is disappointing that it has come to this, but illegal actions have consequences.”

The Commissioners can decide who operates the jail, who provides fire services, and who operates emergency management, but when it comes to policing the unincorporated area and having police power throughout the county, the Constitution and Florida law plainly state that the sheriff will exclusively provide those services.

“The voters of Miami-Dade County understand that the Office of the Sheriff is a proven and effective model, and that is why they want to have their voices heard when it comes to choosing their law enforcement leader who will work to keep their streets and families safe,” said FSA President and Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis. “Public safety should not be subject to a power grab by bureaucrats. It should be decided upon by the collective voice of each community.”  

The Miami-Dade voters, like their counterparts in Florida’s 66 other counties, want a Sheriff who derives authority, not from the motivations of politicians or administrators, but directly from the people of Miami-Dade County. The Mayor and the County Commission are attempting to have it both ways – reestablish the Office of Sheriff, but at the same time keep their countywide police department that they control, and this cannot stand. The Commission must rescind its resolution and honor the Florida Constitution, or the courts must enforce the law.  

To read the full complaint, click here.

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About Florida Sheriffs Association
The Florida Sheriffs Association is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation made up of the Sheriffs of Florida, approximately 3,000 business leaders and 100,000 citizens throughout the state. Founded in 1893, FSA has steadfastly served the citizens of Florida by supporting the needs of the state's law enforcement community. Through the Florida Sheriffs Association, Sheriffs are given a forum to address lawmakers to push for positive changes in Florida’s public safety arena. FSA also provides Sheriffs' Offices much-needed programs such as affordable training, special task forces and legislative and legal services. Dedicated to the prevention of juvenile delinquency and the development of lawful, productive citizens, FSA has established and funded the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches with facilities throughout the state to help restore hope, fulfill dreams, and prepare boys and girls for the future. It has grown to be one of the largest and most successful state law enforcement associations in the nation. For more information on the Florida Sheriffs Association, visit www.dev.flsheriffs.org.