There’s nothing quite like having a work partner who always has your back. Deputy Bobby Wingate and Deputy Julio Perez are a dynamite duo who are two of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office’s finest. They are an integral part of the Community Policing Unit, and together they make an awesome team.
Community policing is a partnership between law enforcement and community members that identify and solve community problems. Members of law enforcement and the community join forces to enhance the safety and quality of neighborhoods. They become active partners and participants in the process of problem solving, and together they find resources to solve problems and enhance the quality of life for residents. This gives community members the opportunity to have a voice when it comes to their concerns.
Deputy Wingate was born in Arcadia and later raised in Moore Haven, Florida. Upon graduating from Moore Haven High School, Wingate joined the United States Army as a medic. Needing a job after finishing his time with the Army, Deputy Wingate was contacted by Ken Holley who was with the Glades County Sheriff’s Department, and asked to join their team. He was sent to the Southwest Florida Police Academy where he received his certification in law enforcement, and began his career in Glades County.
Deputy Wingate later joined the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department as a road patrol deputy. He then spent some time working as a School Resource Officer in the Hendry County School system before returning back to road patrol duty. Deputy Wingate served as the lieutenant with the Criminal Investigations Unit of the East District of Hendry County. Later, he returned to the school systems working as a School Resource Officer once again.
Today, Deputy Wingate is happily working with the Community Policing Unit. This is where he plans to spend the remainder of his career before retiring and spending more time with his wife, Yvette, and their seven children.
Deputy Julio Perez was born and raised in Englewood, New Jersey. Struggling with health issues from the cold weather and his asthma, Deputy Perez’s family made the move to warm and sunny Miami, Florida where he still resides to this day. Each day he is on duty, he makes the nearly two-hour trek between Miami and Hendry County to do the job that he loves. He is extremely grateful for his parents who help him take care of his seven year old daughter during these long days away from home.
After obtaining his law enforcement certification from Key West Community College, Deputy Perez began his career with the Miccosukee Tribe. He later took a position with the Belle Glade Police Department. It was the afore mentioned Ken Holley who played an instrumental role in helping Deputy Perez get hired with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department as part of the Community Policing Unit. He is also temporarily filling in as the Acting Sergeant for the Road Patrol Unit while the current sergeant is out on medical leave.
As if he’s not busy enough working full-time, Deputy Perez has been furthering his education at Florida International University. He will complete his first Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in April 2017. At the end of next year, he will then earn a Master’s degree in Public Administration. He is also the third candidate for their doctoral program.
Both Deputy Wingate and Deputy Perez love their job, and take great pride in working with the Community Policing Unit. They are always out and about doing meet-and-greets in the neighborhoods. They spend a great deal of time attending community meetings and local events. They are building personal and professional bonds with the residents of Hendry County. They know that in order for progress to be made, they must create a sense of trust with the residents.
Deputy Perez stated that “the beauty of Hendry County is that it is a small town where you can see the joys in the victim’s eyes when their property has been stolen, the perpetrator caught and their property is then returned – you just aren’t going to get that in larger communities or a private company.” This is why he prefers to drive long hours each day. He can see the difference he is making in the lives of others.
Deputy Wingate hopes to change the culture of the community. In order to do this, he and his fellow officers have to build trusting relationships between themselves and the residents of Hendry County. He stated that “what keeps me coming to work is the fact that I know that if I don’t accomplish something one day, then I know I can accomplish it the next day,” and “I might not be able to change everybody, but I can change at least one.” He knows there is always something to look forward to each day.
Part of Community Policing is to keep track of juveniles who might start going down the wrong path. Deputy Perez and Deputy Wingate both make it one of their missions to continue staying involved in the lives of these kids in hopes that they can change their outlook on life. They want youngsters to learn to have respect and pride for themselves and for others. These deputies love to hear about the many success stories that occur every day in the local neighborhoods.
The deputies noticed that when they are on duty as road patrol officers, most people don’t want to come and talk to them. Now that the Community Policing Unit spends more time on foot or riding around in golf carts in the neighborhoods, they see that people are more likely to come and speak with them. There is more acceptance and respect for the men who wear the green uniforms. Residents are finally starting to see that these deputies truly just want to help residents when they are in need. At the end of the day, they are fellow citizens too.
Be on the lookout for this pair. Behind the uniforms are two big-hearted men who are helping make great changes in Hendry County. Deputy Wingate and Deputy Perez know it is essential to reinvigorate communities who are struggling with crime by breaking down barriers of mistrust, and then building positive partnerships of trust. They are laying a solid foundation of trust between law enforcement and local citizens one beat at a time.