Big Grady sends Little Grady to duck public questions about his $5M spy plane
Commissioners approve $5M sheriff's spy plane without any guidelines or safeguards; Commissioner Rick Wilson then claims sheriff adamantly opposes using school zone speed cameras to protect kids.
Polk Sheriff Grady Judd is “100 percent against” speed zone cameras for school zones that might help protect student pedestrians and bikers from reckless drivers because “he thinks the human being factor ought to be in it” and “[the sheriff] is the one who would have to issue the tickets,” Polk County Commissioner Rick Wilson said Tuesday. Watch the short clip below.
After Wilson spoke, the County Commission agreed to have a thorough work session to consider all the angles and issues involved in considering the school zone speed cameras, including consultation with Sheriff Judd and the Polk School system.
This discussion became more poignant and urgent because it happened on the same day that a McKeel school bus killed a 15-year-old Central Florida Aerospace Academy student at an intersection where Polk inheritance baby mogul and Florida Poly failure J.D. Alexander apparently has contractual responsibility for traffic signalization.
The speed camera discussion made for a surreal juxtaposition with the commission’s pathetic incuriosity just 30 minutes earlier about a new airborne surveillance platform that seems capable at spying on massive swaths of Polk County in detail at any time it’s airborne.
As County Commissioner Neil Combee said in introducing the idea: “We just got through approving a $5 million plane with a big camera on it. The sheriff has cameras all over the place.”
No questions answered about the spy plane, which is only “primarily” aimed at drug dealers
County Commissioner Neil Combee suggested the school zone cameras about 30 minutes after he and other commissioners approved — without getting any answers to legitimate and common sense questions — a massive new airborne spy capability for the same Sheriff Grady who is supposedly “100 percent against” school zone speed cameras to protect kids because he doesn’t want to write tickets.
To Neil’s credit, he actually asked some good questions of Ian Floyd, the Sheriff’s Office chief of law enforcement. Grady didn’t bother to come. Watch the 7-minute-ish discussion below. A few things to note:
Floyd — and commissioners other than Combee — focus almost entirely on the plane, not the imaging system, which is the actual new and intrusive capability.
Floyd said repeatedly the entire package is aimed “primarily” at drug dealers, but does not address the law enforcement mission space beyond “primarily” at all.
Note that Floyd says “we don’t” look into people houses.” He does not say: “this system can’t look into people’s houses.”
Other than that, you’ll see there is no information useful to public understanding of what this spy platform can do here.
One further note: According to scuttlebutt I was hearing about a year ago, Ian Floyd was supposed to be running for sheriff now as the retiring Grady Judd’s hand-picked successor. Of course, Grady Judd is not retiring. So I don’t know if the sources chatting with me (including law enforcement sources) were wrong — or if something happened. But this guy is Little Grady if Big Grady ever shuts it down. Ian Floyd may own this spy plane he doesn’t want to talk about. Just be aware.
I personally doubt Grady Judd will ever retire. I think he’s too addicted to the power and status of being Grady. I think he’s addicted to making commissioners (and constituents) jump like Rick Wilson and the crew did on Tuesday. Rendering people subservient makes dictator personalities feel good. I think being Grady makes Grady feel good, so he’s gonna go out like Joe Arpaio one day, who finally got unelected at 84 years old.
My public records request for actual spy plane information
Shortly after Wilson and the rest of the commissioners failed to do their jobs, I sent this public records requests to the Sheriff’s Office, receipt of which was acknowledged:
Under Chapter  of Florida Statutes, I'd like to request all written guidelines about the use of the newly approved Kodiak airplane's imaging platform. This includes, but is not limited to:
Which sheriff's office personnel have access to live or stored footage.
Under what circumstances can sheriff's office personnel view live or stored footage
The effective range/radius of passive surveillance captured when the plane is operating.
All policies related to footage storage and retention.
I’m still awaiting any documents, which is suggestive of how seriously the Sheriff’s Office and County Commission take this new ability to spy on the people of Polk County at will.
If you want to see the full discussion of school zone cameras leading up to Wilson, you can see that here.