Clay County sheriff’s race stirred up by Darryl Daniels’ video

Challengers call ‘taxpayer-funded campaign stunt’

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. – Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, who is under state investigation and is facing five challengers in the August primary, posted a warning to outside groups who may be thinking of bringing violent protests to the area in the form of a three-minute video.

Addressing the camera flanked by dozens of deputies, Daniels said: “If we can’t handle you, you know what I’ll do? I’ll exercise the power and authority as the sheriff, and I’ll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county and I’ll deputize them for this one purpose to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility.”

One statement in the video concerned what would be done if too many protesters ever came to Clay County. Daniels said he would temporarily deputize legal gun owners in the county.

News4Jax reached out to the five Republicans challenging Daniels. There is no Democrat in the but because there is a write-in candidate in November (which News4Jax found to be a registered Republican), the winner of the primary is virtually assured to be the next sheriff. Most supplied statements.

Harold Rutledge: “I am appalled at Sheriff Daniels’ Facebook video. He has challenged rioters and looters to come to Clay County and cause mayhem. Clay County was not one anyone’s map to create turmoil until Sheriff Daniels put out his threat.”

“Part of the problem in policing is that some officers need more training in how to interact with all people and all situations, including how to keep calm and how to de-escalate situations. Threatening to ‘make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county and I’ll deputize them’ is going to make the problem worse. Police officers with more than 1,000 hours of law enforcement training can have problems in high-stress situations. Imagine putting a badge on someone with zero training — no de-escalation training, no firearms training, no training with the law. I am not sure what he is thinking, but it is not the kind of thinking we need from our top cop. He is already under an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for abusing his power, and here he goes again.”

Mike Taylor: “I am deeply concerned at the recklessness displayed by Sheriff Daniels in his recent video taunting “would be” protesters. This video appears to be more about self-promotion rather than professional policing. I am further shocked at the comment he would make “Special Deputies” of all legal gun owners in Clay County. This again is reckless and irresponsible. He appears to be taunting protesters to come and see what he has for them rather than providing protection to the citizens of Clay County. Part of the problem we now face in our nation is legitimate concern regarding police misconduct. The power and authority we possess as police officers is only as strong as the trust of the public we serve. We have two candidates running for Sheriff who have been accused of violating that trust. Now, Sheriff Daniels says he would “special deputize” private citizens and place good citizens who are untrained in de-escalation and police use of force in a position to make split decisions that some trained police officers have had difficulty making. This will only invite chaos and anarchy to our streets. Should I become the Sheriff of Clay County the citizens deserve to know I will have their back. They are already protected by the Second Amendment. They are authorized to defend themselves and their families from the threat of serious bodily injury or death. As Sheriff, not only will I support and defend their rights, I will be out front. A small fraction of protesters have legitimate concerns that should be heard. We do need police reform. Fortunately 99% of law enforcement officers are consummate professionals and do a fine job. However, there are 1% who make us all look bad. We must do a better job. The answer is not in defunding, disarming or dismantling police departments. The answer is found in recognizing the legitimate complaints and working together to restore trust in the community. If citizens with legitimate concerns choose to peacefully protest, I will join them and work with them. However, when legitimate peaceful protests become hi-jacked by folks with a political agenda who choose to damage property and harm others, they will be put in jail. I have stated publicly that upon becoming Sheriff, I will deputize the School Police, Green Cove Springs Police and Orange Park Police Officers giving them all county-wide jurisdiction. As a Special Agent Supervisor with FDLE, I was in charge of Mutual Aid and Homeland Security. If there were any circumstances where I believed the law enforcement resources we had were not sufficient, I would first call up retired law enforcement officers in the community, then petition the Governor to stand up the Florida National Guard to work with our Deputies as force multipliers.”

Michelle Cook: “What Daniels said yesterday may sound tough and macho. But, instead it is a call for vigilantism and another signal that he is incapable of leading the Sheriff’s Department and keeping Clay County safe. Instead of dealing with real issues in a meaningful way, he is behaving like a reality show Sheriff and calling attention to himself. To make matters worse, he pulled 18 officers off the streets to be used as props for his taxpayer-funded campaign stunt. It’s no wonder morale is so low among our fine officers. As a Constitutional Conservative, I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. But when we have a Sheriff’s Department where the budget has exploded every year Daniels has been in office and crime is on the rise, this political scam is a self-admission that he is not up to the job. If I was under criminal investigation by FDLE I would probably want to change the subject too”

Cook is alluding to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into Daniels’ ordering of a deputy to arrest a woman he was having an affair with during an incident in 2019 that involved Daniels, his wife and the woman. News4Jax learned from the state that the FDLE has completed its draft report, which was given to the State Attorney’s Office for review. There is no word on when it might be released.

Catherine Webb: "As a citizen of Clay County, I am appalled at the video that Sheriff Daniels has made in regards to his Campaign for re-election. It is his duty to keep the citizens of Clay County Safe. It is also his duty to keep the men and women who serve our Community at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Safe. We are seeing the destruction that has occurred around our nation because of lawlessness. How dare him invite people who have no regard at all to the law and yet he invites them to Clay county. He jeopardizes the community’s safety as he challenges them to come to Clay County. I call this senseless and a waste of our tax dollars! Fraud, Waste, and Abuse! That is the problem we are having now. 1% of law enforcement officers are intimidating the community and taking the law into their own hands and making the other 99% look bad. He is doing just that and the people of Clay County are not happy with his tactics. This only jeopardizes the safety of the community.

“I am a conservative and I believe in the 2nd Amendment. All citizens have the right to defend themselves and their property. This is a political stunt by the Sheriff and I am sure the voters of Clay County see this for what it is.

“There are avenues to pursue if lawlessness was on the rise and there are levels of government that are always standing by ready to assist.

“If I am elected your Sheriff, I will not Politicize the Office of Sheriff and the men and women who serve for personal gain. I will work for you the people and ensure my agency serves you with the dignity you deserve keeping your safety in mind first!”

Candidate Ben Carroll responded to our request by saying he doesn’t comment on other candidates’ political strategies.

As far as the statement about deputizing legal gun owners in the County if there were ever a need, News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson doubts it would happen. Jefferson ran for Sheriff of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the past. “I think that’s a bluff more than anything. Sounds good on the surface. You can’t have chaos among citizens. Citizens already have the right to defend themselves. You say you’re going to deputize people go out and act as police without police training then you’re totally jeopardizing the safety of those residents,” said Jefferson.

We also have the full video from the sheriff posted there as well.

“If we can’t handle you, you know what I’ll do? I’ll exercise the power and authority as the Sheriff, and I’ll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county and I’ll deputize them for this one purpose to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility,” Daniels said in the video.

In a video posted on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, the sheriff was also critical of the mainstream media and the Black Lives Matter movement.

WATCH: The Clay County Sheriff's Office issued a warning to violent protesters.

Posted by WJXT4 The Local Station / News4JAX on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Asked if protestors have caused any issues for them, Clay County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Keith Smith told News4Jax they have seen a “very slight increase” in threats from outsiders to start a protest or to damage public property. Smith said he was part of the crew that cleaned up graffiti from vandals who had targeted a building next to church last week.

“We don’t want this to get out of hand,” Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We want people to know you have every right to protest, and we will protect that, but Clay County will not tolerate outside instigators.”

The original post of the video has more than 1,000 shares and hundreds of comments.

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