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 W.P. 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 -1907
- D.S. Carlton, 1907 - 1915
- W.I. Jones, 1915 - 1920
- W.P. Monroe, 1920 - 1921
- A. Ruffner, 1921 - 1922
- J.R. Merritt, 1922 - 1929
- B.A. Brown, 1929 - 1953
- J.R. Norvell, 1953 - 1973
- C.L Norvell, 1973 - 1985
- R.C. Knowles, 1985 – 2000
- K.J. Mascara, 2000 – present
The first black deputy joined the Sheriff's Office in 1954, and the first female deputy was hired in 1975. Agency growth continued from 38 employees in 1967 to 700 in 2016.
These 700 dedicated professionals serve a population of over 300,000 through innovative law enforcement and detention services, including School Resource Deputies, a youth Explorer post, full-time Marine, K-9 and Aviation units, Underwater Search and Recovery Dive Team, Regional Bomb Disposal Unit, Crisis Negotiation Team, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, Neighborhood Watch, Citizens Observation Patrol, Citizen Academy and Teen Driver Challenge. 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.