Alex Freeman, Candidate for Palm Beach County Sheriff
By Krista Martinelli
Alex Freeman knows about service to his community. He put in 22 years of law enforcement service in Palm Beach County before retiring in 2015. In 2016, he ran for Palm Beach County Sheriff against current Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and lost. He was a Major, third in command of the police department. He also has served as Executive Assistant to the Chief of Police in Riviera Beach. In the past, he’s been named Office of the Year for Palm Beach County (2003).
I asked him why he’s running in 2020 against Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who has been Sheriff for 16 years and in law enforcement for 50 years. Freeman says his main goal is “to make a difference in Palm Beach County in the way we provide law enforcement services.” He spells out the comparison between Bradshaw and himself. “We are both tough on crime. I’m also tough on recidivism.” One of the keys to keeping those who have committed a crime from repeating this behavior, according to Freeman, is giving them real second chances. Freeman would set up a first time ever apprenticeship program for those who are coming out of prison to work with employers. Employers would give them a second chance at life. “We would hold job fairs at the Sheriff’s office, so that they are gainfully employed and can turn their lives around,” says Freeman. He also points out that taxpayers are responsible for $133 per day for housing just one inmate. If you look at all the inmates and look at 365 days per year, it comes out to a huge amount of taxpayer funding. He says there would be significant savings for every person who turns his life around and finds gainful employment.
Freeman adds, “Police reform will not take place until we vote him out of office.”
The current budget of the Palm Beach Sheriff Organization is $700 million dollars. And if you include grant funding, this number jumps to well over a billion dollars. “There’s no transparency,” says Freeman. If he is elected, he says, “My staff and I will execute a forensic audit of the budget, line by line.”
Police body cameras, says Freeman, capture what’s going on. “To be honest, body cams are not the all in all solution. But they do help.” About 3 years ago, Sheriff Bradshaw said he did not support body cams because the cost would be approximately $19 million dollars. However, says Freeman, “There’s no reason in my mind why they (PBSO) can’t support body cams.” I reached out to Sheriff Ric Bradshaw about body cameras, but he was not available to comment.
I asked Freeman what the #DefundthePolice movement means to him. “What they’re saying is we need to identify programs like social services and working with people who have mental disorders. So to one end, I support defunding programs that don’t work and replacing them with programs that do work.” In other words, Freeman supports defunding programs that do not serve as a benefit to our community.
It’s been an uphill road, getting the word out about voting for Alex Freeman in 2020. He’s been campaigning for seven years now. “We knew we weren’t going to match Bradshaw’s fundraising,” he says. Just compare the more than $600,000 dollars contributed to Bradshaw with the $26,000 dollars contributed to Freeman. So the Freeman campaign has been using social media, knocking on doors and holding up signs at major intersections. “I’ve been putting in 12-hour days in Palm Beach County,” says Freeman. “After knocking on so many doors, I’ve lost 68 pounds!” He’s currently sending out mailers – which include “a letter from me, a 2020 vision card and a business card.” Freeman personally follows up with those mailings within a week, knocking on doors.
I asked him how he’s experienced racism in his life. “I experienced it again yesterday at the corner of 441 and Forest Hill Boulevard in Wellington,” says Freeman. “A couple of folks rolled by slowly in their cars and said, “Go home,” n-word. He was out at the intersection for a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.
Freeman recalls another memorable incident on Singer Island when he was on the police force, and someone’s boat had been burglarized. “He told me I was the wrong color and we needed to send a white officer instead.”
We also talked about the murder of George Floyd. “Just to see that unfold, that was nothing more than murder. It was terrible, senseless. To have a knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, it made me angry.” Freeman also mentions that it’s not true when people say that if you can talk, you can breathe. Floyd clearly could not breathe. “Once the handcuffs go on, you get them in the car and transport them,” he states.
Freeman and his wife just celebrated 20 years of marriage. His wife will retire next year after 35 years of working with the PBC Tax Collector office as the branch manager. His son (31) is a manager for Apple in Atlanta. His daughter (18) graduated from Palm Beach Gardens High School. She plans to enroll at Palm Beach State College for 2 years and then go to FSU in Tallahassee with a major in Journalism.
One other big change Freeman would like to see with PBSO?
“I think there needs to be more racial bias training in Law Enforcement. When we go out in these communities, Law Enforcement needs to understand the culture of who they are dealing with.” About 15 to 20 years ago, they did away with diversity training, he explains. “Now it’s just a multiple-choice online quiz, and it’s very easy to pass it.” Freeman calls for a better understanding of different races and cultures. “That’s the missing piece.”
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