Q&A SPECIAL REPORT: Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey Talks About COVID-19 Challenges and Response

By  //  April 23, 2020

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Space Coast Daily editors recently sat down with Brevard County Sheriff Wayne to discuss how the COVID-19 threat is different from previous public safety concerns he has addressed over his more than 40-year law enforcement career.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Space Coast Daily editors recently sat down with Brevard County Sheriff Wayne to discuss how the COVID-19 threat is different from previous public safety concerns he has addressed over his more than 40-year law enforcement career.

Sheriff Ivey is a graduate of the FBI National Academy 237th Session and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Supervision and Management from Daytona State College.

His background in law enforcement includes Management, Criminal Investigations, Narcotics, Patrol Services, Public Integrity Investigations, and Corrections.

Prior to being elected in 2012, Sheriff Ivey served the citizens of the State of Florida as the Resident Agent-in-Charge for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

As a member of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he developed numerous programs that were not only nationally recognized for their innovation but were identified as national models to investigate crime.

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Sheriff Ivey has testified before the United States Congress on law enforcement related matters and has extensive experience in the area of crime prevention innovation. He speaks regularly on topics such as Identity Theft, Crime in America, Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Self Defense through Mental Preparedness.

He firmly believes that crime prevention and education are vital to reduce our crime rate and protect our community.

Sheriff Ivey was appointed to serve as the Chairman of the Florida Sheriffs Association training committee as well as serving on multiple non-profit boards throughout Brevard County.

He is the recipient of the President’s Award for efforts in crime prevention and community awareness from the Florida Crime Prevention Association (FCPA) and the NRA Defender of Freedom Award.

BCSO COMMAND STAFF: Sheriff Wayne Ivey, Chief Deputy Douglas Waller, Chief Michael DeMorat and recently retired Chief Alan Moros lead the nearly 1,600 Brevard County Sheriff’s Office members, volunteers and citizens who work each and every day to make Brevard County a safe place to live and raise our families.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: How is the COVID-19 threat different from previous public safety concerns you have addressed over your career? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: With over 40 years of law enforcement experience, I can tell you that we are currently in uncharted waters with this pandemic. Overall, our COVID-19 response is not much different from any other critical incident in strategy, this incident, however, has required a revision to our traditional agency response as it relates to communication methods.

Historically, the impacts of critical issues are of a much shorter duration, which allows us to meet personally with our personnel to provide direction and communication while also addressing their concerns and questions. The strategy and associated goal as always is designed to protect human life, both citizen and employee. With storms and fires, you address the crisis to protect your resources, usually during the height of the threat so you are prepared to respond once it is safe to respond.

This crisis though is a different kind of threat, as it puts our most valuable resource, our employees, at risk throughout the entire event. With over 1600 members, new communication methods are being utilized for timely and effective messages. With this invisible threat, we can no longer meet directly with our team and must rely on innovative methods and technology to communicate.

We have relied heavily on our infectious disease protocols and continue to present our agency personnel with updated recommendations from the CDC and Department of Health along with personal protective equipment and training. The goal is to not only protect our citizens but to also protect our employees and their families by mitigating the spread of this disease.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: Is Brevard County different from other communities as it relates to critical incident response? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: Brevard is truly unique as compared to most Florida counties.  We are 72 miles long with travel routes and natural barriers including our beautiful beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Johns River, Indian River, Banana River, Sebastian Inlet, Port Canaveral, Interstate 95, A-1-A, and State Roads 520 and 528.

Our geographical design does not permit a single facility or operational headquarters like most law enforcement and public safety agencies. As such, we have 5 Patrol Precincts, Criminal Investigations, 3 Courthouses, County Jail, Animal Services, and the County Seat Administration offices.

This doesn’t include Special Operations offices such as the Port, Aviation and School Security. Each location is relatively the size of a municipal police department by both the number of personnel and the size of the jurisdictional area of responsibility.  As you can imagine, this requires incredible coordination and communication.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: Speaking of coordination, how is such a massive undertaking coordinated? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: Our Command Team is coordinated by our Chief Deputy, a 34 year veteran of our agency. He provides personal direction, inspiration and support for our operations, which includes 10 separate commands. Under his direction, each command operates respectively as a moving part of the agency, each with unique responsibilities and specific services.

Our command team has daily and sometimes multi-daily telecommunications to discuss protocols, officer safety practices and information briefings for agency-wide distribution and discussion.  This incident response is a major undertaking, as we are evaluating and adjusting to new safety practices, protocols and new employment standards.  Our employees, like all citizens, have the same concerns and impacts such as child care, underlying illnesses and the need to remain virus-free as we perform our duties.

I am extremely proud and have great respect of every agency member, but our command team has been exceptional in leadership, motivation and implementing our response to compassionately address the needs and concerns of both our citizens and employees.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: In addition to the coordination of your agency, what other efforts are requiring resources and time?

• SHERIFF IVEY: I communicate daily to provide critical and timely information to our staff, members of our County Commission, our County Manager, the Public Safety Director, Health Department, Governor DeSantis, and our many healthcare, state and federal partners.

Chief Deputy Waller is also deeply engaged in communicating with our Command Team, local partners such as our State Attorney, Public Defender, Clerk’s Office, Chief Judge, County Attorney, Fire Rescue, School Superintendent, Canaveral Port Authority, County Emergency Operations and our Chiefs of Police to ensure operational effectiveness.

We are all actively and collectively communicating, sharing information, discussing preparedness, and most importantly, ensuring access and resources are available. We are very blessed in Brevard to have such an experienced team of public service leaders and professional public servants are always available. This issue is too large for any single area or respective profession to address individually, only by working together can we ensure a successful and effective outcome.

Having great admiration for your team, your counterparts and possessing open and positive relationships with Brevard’s leadership is absolutely critical and imperative during both the good times and unfortunately, the difficult and challenging times.

I personally believe and subscribe to the philosophy that there are all sorts of ships in the ocean, but nothing calms rough seas like partnerships, relationships and friendships!

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• SPACE COAST DAILY: Why is this incident different from a large scale Storm or Fire response?   

• SHERIFF IVEY: In most critical incidents the threat is somewhat predictable, and if it is predictable, it is potentially preventable. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we do have great experience in the response to large scale natural disasters, human nature and how our communities will react to short term impacts to their daily lives.

This threat is invisible, indiscriminately preying on both our citizens and first responders alike. The long term impacts not only create the potential for loss of life like a storm, but it can weaken the spirit and morale of our citizens and agency members if we fail to provide support.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: You said technology was key to communication, can you tell us how this is being accomplished? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: Telephones and the internet provide us the ability to provide timely direction and training. Each day we communicate with our community leaders, other law enforcement agencies, first responders, healthcare providers and state and federal leadership.

We all share best practices and information to better protect our communities and each other. During storms it is not uncommon to loose technology where we must rely on physical communication, this incident prevents squad meetings, briefings or musters, opportunities to personally meet with our team, requiring conference calls, emails and electronic media capabilities to share information and respond to concerns and questions.

By using information technology, we have also had to address and respond to malicious computer malware attacks designed to obstruct public safety operations. These attacks occur daily and require both resources and efforts to defeat and maintain operations.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: You spoke of malware attacks in this age of information technology, have there been other technology-related concerns? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: Identity theft and fraud have been a growing threat to our citizens for years. With everyone shopping and conducting business electronically, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our personal information.

Additionally, there is the threat of information overload, where we hear so much information we become complacent, especially as it relates to important health updates. And lastly, there is the threat of rumor control, not everything you read or hear is accurate, and with so many relying on social or electronic media, information can and will be distorted whether intentional or not.

Opinions and stories are not always accurate, so please verify the information that you choose to base your decisions upon. You can call your health departments, local law enforcement, community leaders, public safety offices and emergency operations centers to ask questions and get real answers.

• SPACE COAST DAILY: We read an email communication you shared with your agency, it is very impacting and emotional, what does the message mean to you? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: Emotions are raw, these are challenging times. Our agency members are also members of our communities. We are your next-door neighbors, we shop at the same grocery stores, go to the same churches, our children go to the same schools, we share the same concerns.

It is important that our team knows how proud I am of them. It is also very important that our community knows we are there for them. We leave our families every day and night to provide an important service. We fulfill our oath every day to protect them and our constitutional rights and privileges. Something that makes our great nation different from all others.

I also wanted our team to know we are the first line of defense and we don’t stand alone, we are circled by superheroes who may wear scrubs, or uniforms of other colors, badges of different shapes, we may be teachers, faith-based, military, or so many other public servants and volunteers who are committed to giving so much, and sometimes all they have, for so many with no expectations other than to provide comfort and help. Additionally, we must continue our normal operations.

During a storm response, most normal daily operations are suspended for days and possibly weeks, this response has suspended our normal daily lives over an extended time period, but not our daily operations.

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• SPACE COAST DAILY: What message do you want to share with our citizens to help cope during this difficult time? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: You are not alone. We are all in this together. We will all work together, one team, one mission! There are so many members of our community working around the clock to help and they all care so deeply.

They don’t do what they do for recognition, whether its stocking grocery shelves, delivering supplies, preparing meals, volunteering, filling prescriptions, tending to patients, responding to medical service calls, teaching our children, and so many others accomplishing so much more!

Brevard County is a community of good neighbors who are always there to help. So please, thank them all, they are tired, worried and hopeful, just like you and me!

• SPACE COAST DAILY: Any final thoughts or comments? 

• SHERIFF IVEY: As I have always said, it takes a community to protect a community, and by partnering together we will win against this challenge and any future challenges we may face.

Our primary focus should be on everyone following the CDC recommendations and health department informational updates to protect ourselves, our families and our entire community!

We are so blessed to live in Brevard County, a place I not only call home, but what I believe is the greatest place on earth to live, work, and raise our families.