Gov. DeSantis says state’s top cop had ‘long run’ but now is time for change

Govt. Ron DeSantis Tuesday brushed off questions about the departure of the state’s top cop and whether he was unhappy with the job that Rick Swearingen was serving as Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Swearingen Last week announced he was retiring in September, but abruptly changed his departure date to May 1 on Monday.

Swearingen, who had been in charge of the FDLE for the past eight years, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting where his agency pushed several points before the governor and the cabinet.

“I believe he has served the state faithfully for decades and we greatly appreciate him,” DeSantis told reporters interviewed about his impending departure.

DeSantis added that Swearingen, who has been in law enforcement for 38 years, had a “long term” as commissioner, but he added that “now we are in a situation where we have the opportunity to focus on other issues.

Swearingen’s departure comes just after DeSantis signed the law SB 1658which changes the way the commissioner is appointed. Under the new law, the FDLE Commissioner can be confirmed by a majority of Cabinet, rather than a unanimous Cabinet vote.

This blocks the ability of the Commissioner for Agriculture Fried Nikkia Democrat looking to challenge DeSantis in the gubernatorial race, to block the nomination.

The governor’s office previously insisted that Swearingen, who earns more than $155,000, resign on his own. But Fried repeated Tuesday his claims that he had been kicked out and that DeSantis wanted to install someone loyal to him in the position.

“There should never be partisan politics about any of these agency heads. They have a job to do. And none of these issues that come before cabinet — none of these things, these decisions that cabinet makes on a daily basis — are partisan in nature. We should always put the state before the party. And it’s unfortunate that this governor didn’t do that,” Fried said.

Swearingen’s rise to FDLE commissioner came under the tenure of the then Governor. Rick Scott. named Scott Swearingen, who had been the Capitol’s police chief, and appointed him FDLE commissioner after Scott forced the former FDLE commissioner Gerald Bailey to resign.

Swearingen’s departure will create a scramble to fill one of the state’s most high-profile law enforcement jobs. Speculation is already mounting that either larry keefea former US attorney now working for DeSantis, or Duval Sheriff mike williamswho leaves office due to term limits, could be the successor.

FDLE works in conjunction with local law enforcement and conducts statewide investigations, including corruption investigations among government officials. The agency also compiles crime statistics, maintains databases, and oversees several crime labs that examine criminal evidence. FDLE has a budget of nearly $388 million and nearly 2,000 positions.

During the last session, the Legislature also made it clear that FDLE agents will work in tandem with the State Department to investigate allegations of voter fraud.

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