Okeechobee top cops have a ‘shared cause’

OKEECHOBEE — In an interview conducted with Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen and Okeechobee City Police Chief Bob Peterson, the two men talked about how their agencies work cohesively toward a shared cause — serving the same community by providing residents, business owners and visitors a safe and enjoyable living environment in Okeechobee County.

Bob Peterson, Okeechobee City Police Chief

Chief Peterson has been a member of law enforcement since 1983 and has worked professionally with Sheriff Stephen, who began his career in 1987, for many years. They both have been serving the people of Okeechobee for over 30 years as individuals — which translates to being very experienced professionals in the realm of law enforcement.

Sheriff Stephen and Chief Peterson expressed during the interview that they are very fortunate to be the heads of their respective agencies in the community they serve.

“They (the chief and sheriff) believe in setting the tone and direction for their personnel by being effective and efficient leaders through example of their own behavior as members of law enforcement,” said Chief Peterson.

One example of their teamwork was in their own neighborhood, where they both responded to an incident in the rain together, personifying the desire they have to help members of their community.

Noel Stephen, Okeechobee County Sheriff

“We won’t ask from our officers what we, ourselves, would not do in order to provide the best service possible to the people of Okeechobee,” offered the sheriff.

They went on to say they have both benefited from having worked for great leaders and learned to become great leaders themselves, by taking what they found to be effective and efficient from their predecessors and implementing those methods to formulate their own leadership styles.

Both men considered themselves blessed to work together over the years as members of law enforcement, providing them the opportunity to grow professionally and being able to promote more unity between the two agencies than prior administrations.

Sheriff Stephen and Chief Peterson pointed out that a lot of the cohesion between the agencies can be attributed to them operating on the same communication system. This allows for personnel from both agencies to respond to service calls without having to relay information from one to another, reducing response time and misinformation being disseminated to the jurisdictional authority.

Aside from the communication system, both agencies have personnel comprising the Okeechobee County Special Response Team (SRT) and Narcotics Task Force teams — further exemplifying their effective working relationship.

Chief Peterson and Sheriff Stephen also find themselves in the other’s presence by attending many of the same community events, separate from their daily job interactions. This marks them as being quite possibly the most visual sheriff and police chief the people of Okeechobee has ever had.

They are proponents of their personnel being a collaborative law enforcement community, not differentiating an officer from a deputy when it comes to serving the people, and approve of one agency backing up the other on traffic stops and calls for service. This is accomplished because both of them find it easy to work together due to their mutual respect, which trickles down to the individual law enforcement officers.

“Through hard work and perseverance, greatness can be achieved in reference to where we find ourselves — currently leading our organizations after starting at the bottom of the law enforcement profession,” noted Sheriff Stephen.

They are also advocates for hiring locally as it facilitates positive community relations with members of law enforcement and the individual citizens of Okeechobee.

The outlook portrayed by Chief Peterson and Sheriff Stephen is one of providing safety, satisfaction and enjoyment of future generations to be experienced here in Okeechobee.

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