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MSDHS Public Safety Commission

Under Florida Statute Section 943.687, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission” was created within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as a commission as defined in s. 20.03.

Established in 2018, the MSDHS Public Safety Commission works within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to analyze information from the school shooting and other mass violence incidents in Florida in order to make recommendations to improve public safety.

Although the commission was created to investigate system failures in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and prior mass violence incidents in Florida, much of its attention has focused on the benefits of using Risk Protection Orders to seize firearms or otherwise force their surrender.

In fact, many of the appointees on the commission are also leading the state in filing RPO Petitions in court. For example, the Commission Chair of the MSD Public Safety Commission is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri who was appointed by the Governor.

To carry out all of the RPO petitions in Pinellas County, Sheriff Gualtieri created a Risk Protection Unit of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. The 5-man team is devoted to working only risk protection cases.

Interestingly, more risk protection orders are filed in Pinellas County than in any other county in Florida (other than Polk County).

A similar phenomenon occurred in Polk County after Sheriff Grady Judd was appointed as a member of the commission. Chris Nelson, the Executive Director at the State Attorney’s Office for the 10th Circuit and the former Chief of Police for the City of Auburndale, was also appointed as a member.

Polk County leads the state in having the highest number of RPO cases.

Rules of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission

Composed of 16 members, the MSDHS Public Safety Commission convenes no later than June 1, 2018. Five members are appointed by the President of the Senate, five members are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and five members are appointed by the Governor.

The Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement serves as a member of the commission. The Secretary of Children and Families, the Secretary of Juvenile Justice, the Secretary of Health Care Administration, and the Commissioner of Education shall serve as ex officio, nonvoting members of the commission.

Members shall serve at the pleasure of the officer who appointed the member. A vacancy on the commission shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

The General Counsel of the Department of Law Enforcement serves as the general counsel for the commission.

Current MSDHS Public Safety Commission Appointees

Chief Kevin Lystad, the Chief of the Miami Shores Police Department, was appointed as the Vice-Chair.

The current commission appointees include:

  • Chief Asst. State Attorney Bruce Bartlett who has served the State Attorney’s Office in the Sixth Judicial Circuit for more than 39 years;
  • Mike Carroll of Pinellas County with Lutheran Services of Florida;
  • Sheriff Grady Judd, with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Chris Nelson, Executive Director at the State Attorney’s Office for the 10th Circuit and the former Chief of Police for the City of Auburndale who started his law enforcement career as a patrol officer with the Bartow Police Department;
  • Sheriff Larry Ashley, Okaloosa County Sheriff;
  • Desmond Blackburn, Ph.D., of Broward County, the CEO of the New Teacher Center;
  • State Senator Lauren Book, M.S. Ed, is an internationally respected and renowned child advocate, former classroom teacher and best-selling author;
  • Douglas Dodd, a member of the Citrus County School Board;
  • James Harpring, the undersheriff for Indian River County and general counsel to the Sheriff’s Department;
  • Melissa Larkin-Skinner, MA, LMHC, is the Chief Executive Officer at Centerstone Florida;
  • Ryan Petty, of Parkland, is the father of Alaina Petty, who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School;
  • Marsha Powers is a member of the Martin County School Board;
  • Max Schachter is the father of Alex Schachter, who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School;
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen.

The following ex officio members also serve on the commission:

  • Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart;
  • Florida Department of Children and Families Interim Secretary Rebecca Kapusta;
  • Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann; and
  • Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior.

This article was last updated on Friday, October 25, 2019.

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