So it turns out some sheriff in Florida is notably unskilled with issue firearms, even when compared to police officers. Shocking to hear, I know.
Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, who has pushed for bans on certain firearms, drew deserved criticism for not being able to pass minimal local police qualification standards. Apparently, he isn’t even required to attempt this. “There is no such requirement [to pass basic qualification] that exists for the constitutional office of County Sheriff,” the article notes.
It is worth pointing out that if Sheriff Manfre cared to, he could put himself up as a tactical trainer and offer classes. His credentials could legitimately read:
- Certified law enforcement professional with more than a decade’s experience.
- Passed multiple law enforcement firearms certifications
- Extensive leadership experience as elected County Sheriff
- Regularly audited law enforcement firearms training and gained a deep understanding of multi-agency training programs
Had Sheriff Manfre been just barely good enough to pass, this negative story wouldn’t have come out. How “good” would he need to be?
“The course is relatively simple in the grand scheme of things. It’s not meant to cause people to fail.” A passing score is 80 percent, or 32 of 40 rounds in the “scoring area” of the targets. The stages vary from a 1-yard distance to the target to 15 yards.
Manage to pass that, slop together a curriculum, spout off about how competition or other trainers will “getcha killed”, add in some catch phrases and marketing material, and you have a “legitimate” tactical trainer in the making. If a sufficient following could be garnered he might even be successful.
Take home lesson: People billing themselves as firearm and tactical trainers that lack an earned skill assessment or background, regardless of their military or police experience, may not be much more skillful Sheriff Manfre, even if their website and promotional videos are really slick.
Sheriff doesn’t have firearm qualification
By Tony Holt
Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre has not qualified for his law enforcement firearms certification, even though he attended an in-service training class two weeks ago.
Cmdr. Bob Weber said Manfre, who did qualify for certification at least twice during his first term as sheriff more than a decade ago, according to News-Journal archives, is permitted by law to bypass the state-imposed firearm certification for law enforcement officers because he is an elected civilian with legally granted “police powers.”
Manfre’s spokesman said this week the sheriff didn’t seek his certification during the weeklong training session, but one of his former lieutenants — a one-time firearms instructor the sheriff laid off in 2013 — said Manfre has a history of poor performance firing his agency-issued Glock model 17, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol.
Weber said Manfre attended the July 14 training session as a participant and to gain a deeper understanding of the agency’s training program.
He said instructors simply “modified the sheriff’s grip” and gave instruction on a variety of shooting exercises during the program.
“In some states, such as Florida, a sheriff is not required to be a sworn peace officer but may be an elected civilian granted police powers by the state’s Constitution,” Weber wrote in an email.
“A Deputy Sheriff must be a certified law enforcement officer and as such is required to demonstrate proficiency with a firearm. There is no such requirement that exists for the constitutional office of County Sheriff.”
Contacted by phone earlier this week, Manfre declined to answer questions about the issue because he was attending an event organized by the sheriffs association, which was Monday and Tuesday in Jacksonville. He referred all inquiries to Weber.
“He has been busy since returning from the (sheriffs association) conference and is currently not available for further comment,” Weber said Wednesday.
Manfre also served as Flagler’s sheriff from 2001 to 2004. … Samantha Andrews, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said sheriffs are exempt from requirements placed on other law enforcement officers in Florida and cited the chapter in Florida law that addresses the powers and duties of a sheriff.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson most recently qualified in March with his agency-issued Glock 22, Glock 27 and patrol rifle, said sheriff’s spokesman Gary Davidson.
Vince Champion, president of the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association, said he understands the legal requirements of an elected sheriff are different from those of a deputy or police officer, but he believes failing to or refusing to qualify for a firearms certification makes it more challenging to lead sworn officers effectively.
Champion, a veteran of the Ormond Beach Police Department and a reserve State Attorney’s Office investigator, is a firearms instructor. He said the state-imposed firearm certification, which every sworn law enforcement officer in Florida must pass every two years, wasn’t designed for SWAT members but more for retired police officers.
“The course is relatively simple in the grand scheme of things,” said Champion. “It’s not meant to cause people to fail.”
A passing score is 80 percent, or 32 of 40 rounds in the “scoring area” of the targets. The stages vary from a 1-yard distance to the target to 15 yards. There is also a time limit.
Remedial training is available for those who don’t pass the test the first time, but he or she is not authorized to perform the duties of a sworn officer until he or she takes the test again and passes it, according to FDLE. A second failing grade usually means he or she cannot be a police officer.
While Champion was a training officer in Ormond Beach he had to recommend remedial training for just one employee in eight years, he said. That person needed only 30 minutes of one-on-one training to meet the standard during the retest, he said.
Flagler Beach police Sgt. Bill Shamp was the range master while Manfre was firing his weapon during the in-service training session. Shamp didn’t return messages seeking comment. Including Manfre, a total of 13 Sheriff’s Office employees took part in the class, according to the training group roster.
When Manfre earned his firearm certification in 2001 and 2002, the range master was Gregory Weston. A former Marine and certified weapons instructor, Weston said he signed off on Manfre’s certification both times “under a level of duress.”
He said Manfre has “no business” carrying a gun and described him as uncoordinated and careless with the weapon.
Manfre decided back then to attain his firearm certification but insisted that he do it by himself with one instructor, Weston said.
“You have to understand the circumstances with being out there with the man that signs your paycheck,” he said.
Weston was a lieutenant with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office in 2013 when Manfre laid him off. Weston admits he holds a grudge, but insists his opinion of Manfre’s performance with a firearm is based on firsthand experience and isn’t personal.
He said he once had to disassemble Manfre’s weapon because it was jammed. He said it was so badly jammed that Weston couldn’t pull the slide back and was forced to disassemble the gun while it was still loaded.
“He’s running around with a gun he is not capable of using,” Weston claimed.