Sheriff Ashley served tirelessly as Okaloosa County Sheriff the past 10 years in the elected office, but was in law enforcement for more than 30 years.
Having a desire to be sheriff ever since his days as a patrol deputy, then as a K-9 officer working street crimes, Sheriff Ashley kept pursuing the role through investigations and then into the command staff. His yearning to lead matured into the feeling he could truly make a difference and his vision was to do that by becoming Sheriff. That he did in 2010 after the Sheriff Charlie Morris scandal, after Ashley reported it to the FBI.
Already having been with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office since 1990, he then became Sheriff, though a negative time in OCSO’s history. Undaunted, he set out determined to rebuild the office’s credibility and trust within the communities of Okaloosa County.
Once Ashley was in the head seat, he and his team set up programs and computer-generated alerts within the OCSO financial system, armory and with evidence. Audits are now conducted on a frequent basis and all data is available online for maximum transparency.
Some of Ashley’s other goals during the past decade were to initiate a more robust physical fitness program for Sheriff’s Office employees, maintain the state accreditation and consolidate communications resources. One of his main accomplishments was expanding the school resource officer program. Now, other communities use Ashley’s program as a role model. OCSO was also the first Northwest Florida agency to receive and use body cameras; the first to aggressively use social media to connect with the community; and the first to put deputies in every school.
Ashley has been successful in restoring transparency to the OCSO. He is passing the baton to newly-elected Sheriff Eric Aden to carry it forward. Aden will be overseeing the OCSO that, currently, serves and protects nearly 200,000 year-round residents as well as many more tens of thousands of visitors each week. The OCSO has approximately 325 sworn officers and 110 civilian support staff services ranging from road patrol, traffic enforcement, investigations and environmental enforcement, to school resource officers, marine and beach patrols, K-9, civil process, warrants, communications and judicial services. As Sheriff, Aden says, “I am not only honored to serve alongside these men and women to combat crime, I feel privileged to have such a wonderful community to call home.”