Feature by The Daily Sun writer FRANK DIFIORE
Charlotte County, FL
Sitting in his office at Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Headquarters, Sheriff Bill Prummell reflects on something his predecessor once said to him. “There are some things you don’t know until you are sitting in this seat,” Prummell recalled. On Dec. 15, Bill Prummell celebrated his 30 years working in the Charlotte
County Sheriff’s Office. Staff members took part in a ceremony outside CCSO HQ on Utilities Road that day to commemorate the occasion.
Prummell first joined up with CCSO Reserves Academy in March of 1991, as one of 20 recruits going through 400 hours of training to be a law enforcement officer. Prummell, originally from Long Island in New York, said he had originally entered the workforce as a cabinet maker and tradesman. Later on, his family encouraged him to pursue a career in law enforcement after he moved to Florida. “I really didn’t like the cold weather,” Prummell said. After joining as a full deputy in December, Prummell said that his career ran the gamut of CCSO’s responsibilities. He started as a road patrol deputy, but soon found himself promoted to detective in the Property Crimes and later the Major Crimes Unit. He would go on to serve in internal affairs, briefly, before reaching the rank of lieutenant and captain in CCSO Investigations, and even crossing over into a jail captain post in corrections. “There was a lot to learn,” Prummell said, recalling his time as a jail captain. Prummell recalled the discussions he had with Maj. Tom Rodgers — who recently retired from CCSO last year as a chief deputy — about how policies at the jail were conducted, and becoming good friends between learning and innovating how things were done. “To this day, I tell my supervisors: listen to your people,” Prummell said. By 2012, Prummell was back on the road patrol, this time as a captain. In the summer of that year, he and his wife Tara met with then-Sheriff Bill Cameron. “He said ‘I’m retiring, you ready?’” Prummell recalled, with a quiet laugh. Prummell noted he had expressed interest in running for sheriff to Cameron before, even stating: “One day I’ll be in your chair.” Cameron, for his part, took Prummell at his word and took to mentoring him. When recalling those years, Prummell credited Cameron for expanding his professional experience within CCSO and directing him towards all those different positions. When Cameron announced he would not seek re-election, however, there were only four months left in the campaign with three opponents to contend with. Short notice as it was, Prummell said it was ultimately a blessing that the campaign was only four months long. “It was nice to have it over that quick,” he said. Prummell credited Cameron for his endorsement, as well as his good working relationship with other deputies, for the relatively smooth transition that came with his eventual victory and stepping into the sheriff’s position. Part of that transition was adjusting to the public role of the sheriff.
To this day, Prummell describes himself as an introvert — a man who is more comfortable listening and observing than being the center of attention. As a detective and investigator, he said that being introverted was an asset. While his partners may have been more actively engaging a subject or examining a crime scene, he was comfortable standing back and observing things and clues that stood out more readily with time and reflection. As a public figure, on the other hand, Prummell said that he made the conscious effort to engage with the community that was just getting to know him. “I was going everyplace I was invited to,” he said. Prummell said he made particular efforts to be transparent and available to Charlotte County Commissioners, making sure they all have an opportunity to tour the jail and see what CCSO’s budget is going towards. “We have the same goal: to make Charlotte County a great, safe place to live,” he noted. Prummell also cited the positive relationship between CCSO and the Punta Gorda Police Department as one of the county’s strengths in law enforcement. “Pam and I get along great,” Prummell said, referring to Punta Gorda Police Chief Pam Davis. Davis agrees. In a statement to The Daily Sun, she congratulated Prummell on his 30th anniversary with CCSO and credited him with including PGPD in local programs and resources. “Sheriff Prummell is great to work with. I truly believe the Punta Gorda Police Department and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office have never had a better partnership then we do right now,” Davis said in the statement.
The years have not been without their challenges. Prummell pointed to recruitment as a particular concern, especially in light of Charlotte County’s recent population growth. The sheriff noted that CCSO takes a multifaceted approach to recruitment, from introducing local kids to law enforcement through the Explorers program to reaching out to law enforcement officers looking to move to Florida. Prummell said that backlash against police in recent years has had a negative effect on recruitment, but the agency is making the best effort to keep up with the county’s population. “You’ve got to have the boots on the ground,” he said. Prummell also recalled the challenges of facing deaths in the line of duty. In particular, he recalled Sgt. Mike Wilson — who died in 2013 after being shot while responding to a domestic violence call — and Deputy Christopher Taylor, who was killed in a car crash while conducting a traffic stop last November. Despite challenges, Prummell said that CCSO enjoys strong local support from both other agencies and the public, and has bold plans for the future. For instance, CCSO plans to open a fifth district office in the Babcock Ranch area by 2024. The agency is also currently planning to update their patrol zones to better reflect population distribution. “It’s a great job if you are in it for the right reasons,” Prummell noted.