Interview with John Tegg
Conducted by: West Orlando News Online
Date: November 08, 2011
WONO: Chief Tegg, you served the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for 27 years, prior to being the Chief of Police of Edgewood and Belle Isle. What was that experience like at the Sheriff’s Office? Could you share with us some of the highlights of that period and some challenges you might have faced?
John Tegg: During that time period I worked almost in every area of the Sheriff’s Office, in some capacity, or as a manager. Probably the highlight is going to the FBI Academy, being selected and then attending that prestigious school, in Quantico, Virginia. Another would be my work with Disney to open up the Animal Kingdom. I was the sector captain at the time and I had the privilege of being able to sit in on the staff meetings at Disney, which is not normally allowed an outsider or non-Disney employee. So, helping to plan the opening of Animal Kingdom, which went off very well and without any hitches was gratifying, and I am quite proud of this.
Regarding challenges, I would say, working the different sectors and making sure that you have good community support and interaction with the community, was one of them. I worked down on the South Trail for about four years and also on I-Drive with the tourism and hotel industry, and maintained that good working relationship between the Sheriff’s office and the community.
WONO: You ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for Orange County Sheriff. Why are you running again, and what do you think you would bring to the position?
John Tegg: The reason I am running again is, I was asked by a number of people to go ahead and throw my hat into the ring, because there is quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the current Sheriff – his operation and the way he is leading the agency. We have seen, on several occasions, where the competency of the sheriff has been called into question. When a situation develops his usual first statement is that he does not know what is going on, or that he had no knowledge of it. Then as we look further, we find out that he did have knowledge and then he tries to change his stance and his position on it after that. Certainly, after the barber shop raids, that’s when I got the most inquiries from people saying, “look we’ve got to get a sheriff in there that will do a competent job and will be a leader in the community and not be out there attacking the community like he’s doing.” So, with that ground-swell of support, that’s what finally convinced me to go ahead and run this time and get out there.
WONO: Let me draw you out a bit more on this. Last week when you announced your candidacy, you said in a release that morale among the ranks was low, the Sheriff’s Office was in turmoil and there was need for new leadership. Why do you stay that? What would you do differently?
John Tegg: Yes, the morale is at one of the lowest points I’ve ever heard of in the Sheriff’s Office, under this administration. The reason is, this sheriff doesn’t seem to stand up for his employees very much. Each year, as there’s money left over in his budget he’s more intent on turning it back into the county to make himself look good. The problem is, he’s doing it at the expense of his employees. They are getting by with less and less, and that’s what has caused the morale to go down. They just don’t feel like they’ve got a sheriff that stands by them.
Now, what I propose to do is several things: one is, to be out there and fight for the employees and try to get them, at least, some benefits. If you budget your agency properly, you will use that money properly. There shouldn’t be cut-backs in areas just to make yourself look good. Certainly, if there is waste you need to cut that out, but if there’s not waste then you need to go ahead and use the money you budget and take care of your employees. By increasing their morale in that way, you’ll also increase their work product. As you well know, happy employees work harder, they take pride in their work, and they get out and work harder for you because they know you are recognizing them, you are rewarding them for a good job; they are getting the money that they need to take care of their families. That’s a huge difference. I think too, that in order to increase the morale you have to show that you’re out there and you’re a leader in your community. You can’t get out there and attack a community and always be on the defensive and have your employees try to defend you all the time for your actions. In such circumstances it would be difficult to keep the morale up. Deputies must have confidence in their sheriff, that he’s out there building the community and being a leader in the community. So, I’ll bring that effective leadership and give them somebody they can be proud of, and get out in the community and build those relationships. You can’t keep doing operations. Again, I keep going back to the barber shop raids, because that was a focal point. You can’t go out there and say you didn’t know anything about it and attack the community and really not find the drugs, or the weapons, or the things that you claim were there and then try to defend it later. Your own employees don’t believe you at that point. So, in your actions you have to demonstrate integrity.
WONO: Edgewood has had one of the lowest crime rates in the county when you were Chief of Police, and I think, at the time, you said if you were elected Sheriff of Orange County you would use some of the same methods to lower crime. What did you have in mind?
John Tegg: That’s correct. If you look at the way the sheriff’s office has divided up Orange County into their patrol zones and patrol sectors, it really hasn’t changed much since the 70’s. You’ve got a new sheriff that has come in and not done anything to change the set-up, or to change the response of the sheriff’s office to the community. If you go by the stats and the standards of the 70’s, that’s what, about 30, 40 years ago, we have got to change the sheriff’s office and bring it up into the year 2011. You have got to do the same thing that we did in little cities like Edgewood and Belle Isle. You have to break the patrol zones down to communities and smaller areas so that you can get more patrol visibility and build a community spirit. For instance, take Pine Hills, it is divided between two sectors, sector one, which is out of Apopka, and sector three, which is out of Ocoee, the Winter Garden area, that divides that community into two different patrol areas. We need to break down those communities and break down those patrol zones even more. By doing that, you build community pride, community spirit, community interaction and you have a patrol force that’s there for that community, that reacts to that community, not a patrol force that’s reporting to Apopka or reporting to Winter Garden. Those are things that need to be done. It’s the same as a small city.
You’re just breaking the county into small communities like small cities, so you can get a better response.
WONO: That leads into my next question. Some gains have been made in bringing down crime in Orange Count when one looks at the statistics. What would you do differently to bring down crime even more in the county? You have been talking about breaking up and policing smaller communities, would you care to expand on this?
John Tegg: Yes, and that’s one of the steps. The current sheriff is trying to claim he has brought crime down by double digits. Well, if you look across the country, crime is at a forty-year low. So, across the whole country the crime is down. That, I don’t think, is a true reflection of what we’ve done here because, violent crime — murders, rapes, robberies – those are all up. So, what we have to do is, as I said before, break down the county into smaller communities. But, there are other things we can do, as well. The Sheriff’s Office has to have more interaction with our private security forces and this would become a force multiplier – getting them involved more directly with the Sheriff and the Sheriff’s Office and the deputies. And, we can do this in several areas, such as training and communications, so we open up more eyes and ears in the community that can help us. One of the things I’ve done in both the city of Edgewood and the city of Belle Isle – and I’d have to study this further within the county – is, I had a patrol phone, so officers working the area carried a phone that the public could call. So, any time there was a suspicious incident or something suspicious going on they could call and talk directly to the patrol officer. What that does is, it gives you real time information, you’re not waiting for a delay, where somebody calls the communications center, in turn the communications center sends it out to the patrol and the deputy finally gets it and then looks at it. You lose valuable time in all this. By having that patrol phone out there, the person that saw something which didn’t look right could call directly to the patrol officer and that deputy could be responding, driving to the incident while the person is telling them about it. This way, you gain a huge amount of time and you’re able to be more responsive to that community.
WONO: Chief, you’ve also said that successful youth programs have fallen into disorder. How important is funding of groups like PAL and other community-based police programs to you? At a time of great fiscal austerity how will you continue to fund these programs?
John Tegg: There is a huge, huge difference when you have a good PAL program and a good youth program going on. What you’re doing is, you are getting that interaction with the youth and your police officers or deputies. With a good mentoring program in place, youths have someone to look up to, somebody who they can model. A lot of them come from single parent homes. The mothers or the fathers, in some cases, are doing a terrific job with what they’ve got but, they’ve got to spend time away at work, they’ve got other responsibilities. This is one way we can help them develop those youths so that they become responsible adults. We’ve seen under the current sheriff where the PAL programs, the after-school programs, the summer programs have all been done away with. There are quite a few businesses and members out in the community that would love to donate, or love to get involved and sponsor kids in these programs. This is what the PAL program was — there was a lot of sponsorship going on from area businesses that wanted to see these programs in place for youth development. We need to get active and involved again so that we can rebuild those youth programs to where they were before and and even improve on them. This current sheriff made the commitment to help the youths in the community, but that did not in fact happen. It was just a campaign promise, which has remained unfulfilled.
WONO: This brings me to my next question on juvenile crime, which is still too high and the too many guns and drugs that are in the hands of youths. How should juvenile crime be tackled? How do you see the role of prevention strategies in helping to curb delinquent behavior, and will this be a priority of yours if elected?
John Tegg: First of all, yes, it will be a priority of mine, I can tell you. And again, it goes back to that earlier answer. If we’re out there in the community and we are interacting and have these childrens’ programs — the PAL program, Badge program, after-school programs, summer programs — we are actually out there communicating and working with these youths before they get into a life of crime. By doing that we build up rapport and trust with the youths which will get us the information to stop these violent crimes and stop the guns. A lot of these kids see what’s going on, they know what’s out there, but we don’t have a rapport currently, so we are not able to work with the youths to help clean up their own community. That’s why it’s so important to get these programs going and it will be a priority under my administration.
WONO: Historically, there has been a fundamental mistrust and suspicion between the African American community and Hispanic community on the one hand and law enforcement on the other hand. If elected Sheriff, how will you bridge that gap? How will you build that trust between the agency and communities, which is essential for good government. Will you be willing, Chief, to appoint a dedicated liaison to work on improving those relationships?
John Tegg: Yes, but it’s not just having a liaison, it’s me as the leader of the organization, as the Sheriff, maintaining that open communication. Ninety percent of the problem in a community is because there is a lack of communication and a lack of interaction. It’s not good enough for me just to appoint somebody just to go and do it. I need to be out there doing it myself so people in the communities can talk to the Sheriff. They need to be able to interact with the Sheriff and know that I’m listening, that I’m taking action, and that I’m going to be there for them, as well as, they being there for me when I need them. Any time a community works well with law enforcement, it comes out of that personal interaction. It’s a whole lot easier when they know me as John Tegg, the Sheriff, than it is as just the Sheriff. We’ve got to open those lines of communication. The Sheriff has to take that lead role and get out there and interact with the various communities and with all groups – African-Americans, Latinos, Whites, Asians and all people that make up Orange County. Yes, we’ll have a liaison group, but, I’m not going to focus on just the liaison, I want to focus on me being there, being able to talk to people in their communities and maintaining that communication.
WONO: How do you see the role of technology, including information technology, in helping law enforcement officers enhance effectiveness? And, do you believe these technologies are being utilized in Orange County?
John Tegg: I believe we have done a good job, although I think there are some areas we can still improve upon. Technology is changing so fast that by the time you invest a lot of money in one area, six months later there’s a whole new program out there. I think we ought to have a small team of people staying on the forefront of technological changes and making sure we are getting the biggest bang out of our money. There are some new things and new gadgets out there that I think we need, maybe not buy on a large scale, but at least, test out and use to see how well they will fit and whether they will enhance our law enforcement capability, in a cost effective manner. However, I think we are doing a pretty good job, although we’re not there yet. But again, you can’t get up-to-date technology when you are more focused on turning money back to the county to make yourself look good, than you are on providing services and protecting communities.
WONO: If elected Sheriff, what would be your top four or five priorities upon taking office?
John Tegg: I think, in terms of top priorities – and some of them are inter-related – would be rebuilding that community support for the Sheriff’s office and those community relationships. I think we’ve got to focus on that. We certainly have got to focus on the youth programs — getting those operational again, getting them back up and running, demonstrating we are committed to the future of our communities, our youths, that’s our future. Also, I think that we’ve got to work on restoring the morale within the agency. We’ve got to make employees comfortable with the leadership again, get them happy that somebody is looking after them and taking care of them. This will enhance productivity which will be better for the community. I think too, we’ve got to focus on getting the agency into smaller units and smaller components, so that we can get more interaction, more visibility, and be more responsive to communities. Those top four priorities are going to be huge. I think we can also do things to improve our training and collaboration, so that we are building the best manpower we’ve got.
We’ve got a huge number of people that are leaving the agency because they are not being taken care of, their pay is not up to snuff. So, a large amount of institutional knowledge, training and experience is being lost through the back door. We’ve got to stop that flow. We’ve made a huge investment in these employees, so we’ve got to do all that we can to retain them. When they leave us to go to another agency because of low morale and inadequate compensation, we are losing a lot more than just a person; we’re losing a wealth of knowledge and experience and we’ve got to stop that.
WONO: Final question. Why should Orange County voters elect John Tegg as the next Sheriff?
John Tegg: If voters elect John Tegg they’re going to see an effective, responsible leader that’s competent; a Sheriff who will build the community, rebuild youth programs, that will build the future of Orange County, that will rebuild the Sheriff’s Office and return the agency to that number one status, so that we are once again looked up to in the community, as well as, in the state. We need to restore that confidence in our leadership, we need to have that ability to not get us into embarrassing situations, not get us into lawsuits, things like that. That’s what I’ll bring. I’ll be an effective leader who knows what’s going on, takes charge, builds communities, builds youth programs and builds broad support.
WONO: Chief Tegg, thanks for your time
John Tegg: Thank you, too.
Brief Bio – John Tegg, III
Belle Isle Police Department 2008 –2011
Interim City Manager (8 months during this time period)
Edgewood Police Department 2006 – 2008
Price Management 2005-2006
Orange County Sheriff’s Office 1975-2003
Retired as a Special Investigations Division Chief after 27 years
of public service
Specialized patrol commander
Professional Standards (Division Commander)
Uniform Patrol Commander Sector 4 & 5
Criminal Investigation Division
Sergeant/Agent for the Metro Bureau of Investigations
(local multi-jurisdictional police task force)
Masters Degree in Public Administration – Troy State
University (FL campus) Cumulative GPA: 4.0
Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice – Florida Technological
University now University of Central Florida
Associate of Arts Degree – Seminole Community College
Graduate of FBI National Academy – Quantico, Virginia
Graduate of Drug Enforcement Administration Drug
Commanders School – Quantico, Virginia
FBINAA Past Area Representative
Central FL Criminal Justice Assoc. Past Vice President
Florida FBI National Academy Association Conference
Committee Chairperson 2002
Florida Police Chief’s Association
Florida Sheriff’s Association
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93
International Association of Chiefs of Police
National Sheriff’s Association
Orange County Municipal Police Chief Association
Church trustee, deacon and high school leader
Central FL Blood Bank 10-gallon blood donor
CONTACT INFORMATION – JOHN TEGG
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