Sheriff's candidates face off in new debate

Candidates meet again before May 19 election


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford spoke Tuesday afternoon about what he plans to do next in the fight against crime, the same day the two men hoping to replace him met in a debate highlighting what they plan to do if they are elected.

Candidates Mike Williams and Ken Jefferson were asked about 10 questions in the 30-minute debate and then had a chance for closing remarks.

Williams, who has been a part of the Sheriff's Office for 23 years and has Rutherford's endorsement said that JSO needs to evaluate training when it comes to police-involved shootings and that he's not opposed to police body cameras and that JSO needs better relationships at the neighborhood level.

"Listen I been talking about violent crime issues in Jacksonville for the last year. We clearly have a violence problem and I can tell you from my experience these shooting are driven by the drug trade, we got to focus on that and get us ahead of the violent crime issue we have," Williams said. "You know when you talk about gang problems and gun crime issues and the drug issues, they are connected together and you can't address them in a silo. It's all one big issue and we got to work on getting ahead of them."

Williams also said that if there is one gang in Jacksonville, it's a problem. He has a strategy aimed at knocking down the local drug trade and creating more after-school programs.

Jefferson also had a lot to say concerning police-involved shootings and said that JSO needs to have more consistent training and take additional measures before using deadly force.

The 24-year JSO veteran vowed to be proactive, combat gang violence and reduce crime by 25 percent his first year in office.

Jefferson also said he was is in favor of police body cameras and he has developed a program to mentor Jacksonville's youth.

"All of (what is being proposed) is reacting to things happening. These gangs have been formulating and organizing for some time and now all of a sudden we are seeing the havoc. They are wreaking havoc in our city," Jefferson said. "This is just another show of my opponent just going with the status quo and continuing to do the same thing. As your sheriff I promise I will be proactive so we don't have to reactive as we are doing now."

The debate did devolve into a financial squabble as Jefferson mentioned a postcard Williams mailed out to voters, criticizing his financial past and pointing to the eight times Williams failed to pay his own mortgage.

News4Jax will be holding another sheriff's debate on May 13 before the next election on May 19.