JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are five candidates vying to be the next Jacksonville sheriff, and the election is a little more than six weeks away.
On Thursday, News4JAX heard one-on-one from the only Republican in the field: recently retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters.
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Another leading candidate in the race sat down with News4JAX on Friday, and we’ll hear from the other three candidates next week.
Democrat Lakesha Burton, who retired earlier this year as an assistant chief with JSO, said she is ready to make a difference in how Jacksonville is policed.
Burton has 24 years’ experience with the department she is hoping to lead and said the decision to run for office was hers and hers alone and not that of the Democratic Party.
“Nobody controls me. Nobody, no group and no political party. What I am is committed to the people. And I believe that law enforcement has become overly politicized at the detriment of police departments across this country, even the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. I think that we have to get back to serving the people,” Burton said.
The issue of transparency in police departments has been in the spotlight across the country recently with the police shooting in Akron, Ohio, and the school shooting in Texas highlighting the issue. Burton said JSO needs to be more transparent.
“Transparency simply means being honest,” Burton said. “We have to start having honest, open dialogue with our community, and that’s what I’ve always done.”
Part of that has to do with the police budget. This year, JSO is asking for nearly $540 million. It’s the single biggest portion of the city budget, and some wonder if cuts should be made.
“That’s one of the questions that people are asking about as well. And what I tell people is that 85% of that budget goes to salaries and benefits,” Burton said. “Obviously, salaries have increased over the years. But as sheriff, I plan to really look at that budget line by line.”
Since former Sheriff Mike Williams made the decision to move out of Jacksonville, which led to his resignation before the end of his final term, residency has become a hot-button issue in the race.
“Well, I have always lived in Jacksonville. Only left to go to college. I absolutely love this city. And that’s why I got in this race. I believe that city officials, elected officials should reside in the community that they serve,” Burton said. “So it’s not a second thought for me. I feel an obligation to live in the community that I serve.”