Jacksonville sheriff candidates invited to face off in roundtable forum

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Candidates to become Jacksonville’s next sheriff faced off in a roundtable event Friday night. The Jacksonville Urban League hosted a 90 minute meeting with prepared questions and audience participation.

All four Democratic candidates appeared. Republican candidate T.K. Waters did not.

Prepared topics included their reason for running, race relations and how to handle crime.

“You’re the missing link folks. You always have been. We talk about public-private partnerships. The public is the key to driving down violent crime,” candidate Tony Cummings said.

“It’s very important to really look and listen to the hearts of leaders,” candidate Lakesha Burton said. “We are so divided in this country, in this community. We need a leader who has the capacity to unify.”

“We must face the reality. There are two Jacksonvilles,” candidate Wayne Clark said. “We don’t want to admit it, but it’s the truth. In one part of Jacksonville, you get one type of service. In another part, you get another type of service.”

“The relationship is fractured,” candidate Ken Jefferson said. “Some segments are policed, not served and protected. We’ve got to build the relationship back.”

Moderators to the discussion read questions from the audience, too.

Those started a back-and-forth about the use of civil citations, with candidates agreeing there are too many people in the jail.

“Look at the cost of an arrest. Jail is overcrowded,” Burton said. “We need compassion. People need a second chance. I know what it’s like to be a victim of a violent crime. I was arrested as well.”

“I’m for adult civil citations. Public defender, state attorney is for it. Sheriff Williams was not. As sheriff, I’ll be for civil citations for adults,” Clark said.

“Yes I’m for it,” Jefferson said. “Every person that commits minor offenses doesn’t deserve to be in the backseat of a patrol car going to jail. The jail is overcrowded with minor offenses.”

“We all want to have an adult program. ICARE, police officers need to hold themselves to higher standards,” Cummings said.

The Urban League announced at the beginning of the event that each candidate was invited.

Waters’ campaign team said he received the invitation but had a family obligation.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.