Community members offer questions to candidates for Jacksonville sheriff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Four of the five candidates for Jacksonville sheriff continued campaigning with a forum Friday night.

Initially planned to be in-person, it was held virtually. Community members got to offer their questions in a two-hour event.

Republican T.K. Waters had a prior engagement, but all four Democrats running for sheriff in Jacksonville appeared at the forum hosted by the Duval Theory of Change Table.

Candidates weighed in on the issue of citizen review boards and differed on whether it’s allowed or wanted.

The moderator pointed to how other cities in Florida make that happen.

“I believe citizens do deserve a voice. We need to be transparent and give them that,” said Wayne Clark.

“I’m going to vehemently disagree,” said Tony Cummings. “The biggest difference is Jacksonville’s never had a sheriff ask for the tools that those other counties, other areas are benefitting from.”

“As sheriff, I am not in favor of citizens review boards,” said Lakesha Burton. “It’s very difficult for a person to understand, without law enforcement experience, to determine discipline. But I do believe citizens voices need to be heard.”

“On the very first day in office, I’ll sign an agreement with the FDLE to oversee and investigate all police-involved shootings and all in-custody deaths,” said Ken Jefferson.

Several questions focused on accountability for officers, but candidates disagreed on the issue of gangs, and whether they exist in Jacksonville.

“I want everyone on this call to start to change the narrative. We do not have a gang problem in this city, folks,” Cummings said. “Mike Williams stood on that stage and say we have 47 gangs and 1,200 gang members — and that’s just not true.”

“This notion that we keep labeling our children gang members, and these cliques high right in there with the gang members — that’s what Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, they were misidentified as gang members. We know how that turned out,” he continued.

“That’s what’s missing — leadership from the top stays to the top in current administration. They stay up top, they stay behind their desk, they stay in the office, they go out when they have to,” Jefferson said. :33 “We’re gonna build that relationship back one house, one person at a time.”

“So we’ve had a gang problem for years,” Burton said. “Our gangs don’t have the same organizational structure as traditional gangs, call it what you want, but they are just as violent and we see it every day on the news. So my plan is to continue to utilize our technology and investigative tools to identify those criminal gang activities.”

“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” Clark said. “Yes, there are some people who we need to arrest and put in jail. But there are some people we need to show compassion and try to salvage through youth programming and other resources in the community.”

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.