JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the third consecutive year, 40 percent of registered voters in Duval County view crime as the most important problem facing the city of Jacksonville, according to a new poll by the University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Laboratory.
When asked about Sheriff Mike Williams' approval rate, 67 percent of Duval County registered voters strongly or somewhat approve of how he’s performing his job.
The sheriff’s job approval crosses partisan lines as Republicans have 82 percent overall approval, while Democrats aren’t that far behind with 60 percent approval.
An even greater split is found along racial lines, as 44 percent of white voters strongly approve of how Williams is handling his job, while only 17 percent of African-American voters strongly approve.
News4Jax asked the sheriff about it as he held a neighborhood crime walk Thursday night at Roosevelt Gardens, a low-income housing community where the majority of the residents are African-American.
“We have a lot of work to do, obviously, and the poll numbers show that," Williams said. "You have to get out and build relationships. You have to work within your organization to make sure everybody is doing the same thing.”
Williams said he's aware of criticism from activist groups accusing him of running a department that turns a blind eye to police brutality on African-Americans. But he said it's perception and not reality.
“I think perception goofs facts, data and transparency," the sheriff' said.
There’s also a recent letter from a now-retired officer accusing the sheriff of running a “white boys club by not accepting minorities onto the homicide unit.”
“That’s not true. I don’t know what the snapshot looks like today, but we’ve had many African-American investigators and women come through the homicide unit. Homicide is a very small part of our agency so I think not just that unit," Williams said. "But agency-wide, it’s important to look like the community we serve.”
Several African-Americans neighbors in that area told News4Jax that the sheriff’s approval ratings from African-Americans were lower because there is a distrust toward police in general.
Other issues covered by the poll include support and opposition to the removal of Confederate statues, and job approval ratings for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council.
Click here for detailed poll methodology and crosstabs by party registration, gender, education and race.