In 1905, St. Lucie County was formed by an act of the Florida Legislature. County offices were created including the Office of Sheriff. The first Sheriff, R.W. Lennard, was responsible for all law enforcement within the county of approximately of 620 square miles and a population of approximately 1,500 residents. In the early days, law enforcement was usually accomplished solely by the Sheriff or with a few deputies, and sometimes with the assistance of citizens sworn in as a "posse" to handle unusual situations.
During the early years, the Sheriff's Office grew proportionately with the population and became involved in enforcing the anti-bootlegging laws during prohibition and other assorted crimes during the "Roaring 20s." One significant event occurred in 1924 when Sheriff J.R. Merritt and his men brought an end to the infamous Ashley Gang which had been terrorizing the east coast from Miami to Fort Pierce.
The gang, responsible for murders, bank robberies and rum running, was wanted up and down the coast. On November 1, 1924, Sheriff Merritt and his men accosted them on the Sebastian Bridge and killed all five gang members, bringing to a close one of the most lawless eras in the county's history. Needless to say, those years were tough times for law enforcement.
Some St. Lucie Sheriffs made the supreme sacrifice while in office. Sheriff D.S. Carlton, who occupied the old house and jail on 2nd Street in Fort Pierce, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1915. Sheriff WP. Monroe, while enforcing the prohibition laws involving rum runners, was killed in an unexplained boat explosion in 1921.
The county has had 11 Sheriffs since 1905:
- R.W. Lennard, 1905 to 1907
- D.S. Carlton, 1907 to 1915
- W.T. Jones, 1915 to 1920
- W.P. Monroe, 1920 to 1921
- A. Ruffner, 1921 to 1922
- J.R. Merritt, 1922 to 1929
- B.A. Brown, 1929 to 1953
- J.R. Norvell, 1953 to 1973
- C.L Norvell, 1973 to 1985
- R.C. Knowles, 1985 to 2000
- K.J. Mascara, 2000 - present
Pat Duvall, the first black deputy joined the Sheriff's Office in 1954 and retired at the rank of Captain in 1985. Captain Duvall died in 2020 at the age of 100. Katherine "Kitty" Bravakis was the agency's first female deputy, hired in 1952 and retired at the rank of Chief Deputy in 1985. Lillie R. Miller was the agency's first black female deputy was hired in 1985 and retired at the rank of Major in 2004.
Agency growth continued from 38 employees in 1967 to 759 in 2020.
These 700 dedicated professionals serve a population of over 300,000 through innovative law enforcement and detention services, including:
- Citizen Academy
- Citizens Observation Patrol
- Crisis Negotiation Team
- Full-time Marine
- K-9 and Aviation units
- Neighborhood Watch
- Regional Bomb Disposal Unit
- School Resource Deputies
- Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team
- Teen Driver Challenge
- Underwater Search and Recovery Dive Team
- Youth Explorer post
Awards & Recognition
Each of these specialized areas have received regional, state and, in some instances, national awards and recognition, and many of these innovative programs serve as models for other agencies.
Having attained accredited status on both state and national levels, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office strives to provide exemplary user friendly service in a continuing partnership between government and its citizens through excellence in criminal justice services.