JUL 14, 2020 AT 2:14 PM

Editorial Board interview with Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw who is running for a fifth term.

For someone who claims to dislike politics, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has made himself into a political force.

Bradshaw is seeking his fifth term in the Aug. 18 Democratic primary. He has raised $680,000 compared to roughly $27,000 for his challenger, Alex Freeman. Bradshaw got an early $5,000 from the Police Benevolent Association, so he also has the powerful union’s backing.

Since winning his first term in 2004, Bradshaw has not faced a credible opponent. He got 66 percent of the vote four years ago against three challengers, avoiding a runoff. In a majority-Democratic county, Bradshaw is a Democrat who enjoys support from key Republicans.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office has come far under Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who is seeking his fifth term. We hope that four more years will bring even more progress. (Sun Sentinel)

Bradshaw did not exaggerate during his interview with the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that the department he took over 16 years ago was “pretty much in shambles.” The previous sheriff was an incompetent leader who favored buying expensive toys — such as the law enforcement version of an armored personnel carrier — over maintaining public safety.

Under Bradshaw, who had been police chief in West Palm Beach, standards increased quickly. He said the department is now “nationally recognized.”

Bradshaw serves on regional task forces that deal with homeland security and emergency management. His office provides the local security detail when President Trump visits Mar-a-Lago. Bradshaw has helped to secure reimbursement for those expenses.

During the last few weeks, demonstrations locally and nationwide have called attention to the issue of law enforcement reform. In some ways, Bradshaw has been ahead of this curve.

Bradshaw has formed seven “mental health teams,” consisting of a deputy and a social worker. As he puts it, “I should not be the largest mental health provider in the county.” He’s talking about the county jail, which the sheriff’s office runs.

A recent case from Baltimore illustrates the potential benefits of mental health teams. Police officers shot a man who was going through what the report described as a “behavioral health crisis.” A review concluded that there had a been “total failure” of the system. If he is reelected, Bradshaw proposes to double the number of mental health teams.

Similarly, when Bradshaw ran four years ago, the office faced a wave of lawsuits from deputy-involved shootings. He changed training to include a “tactical pause” designed to de-escalate confrontations and leave more distance between the deputy and a suspect. Shootings have declined significantly.

Bradshaw is a career cop who, even in such a powerful post, retains the beat cop’s wish to protect the neighborhood. His message to voters: “Who do you trust to keep you safe?”

Alex Freeman is running for Palm Beach County sheriff in the 2020 Democratic primary.

The contrast with his opponent is stark. Freeman was a major in the Riviera Beach Police Department, which at the time was one of the county’s worst. He got fired, though he got his job back after a hearing. More recently, news reports linked Freeman to the firing of a Riviera Beach city manager in an attempt to become chief. Freeman denied the allegations.

Under Bradshaw, the department has come far. We hope that four more years will bring even more progress. The Sun Sentinel endorses Ric Bradshaw for Palm Beach County sheriff.

Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Dan Sweeney, Steve Bousquet and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.

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