‘The city deserves better’: Tony Cummings plans public accountability office if he’s elected Jacksonville sheriff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The special election for Jacksonville Sheriff is less than a month away.

News4JAX has been sitting down with candidates one-on-one, asking how they would approach issues like violent crime and accountability within the Sheriff’s Office.

Tony Cummings, one of four Democrats in the field, said he wants to be sheriff “because the city of Jacksonville has been hemorrhaging from violent crime.”

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Cummings, a Jacksonville native, served overseas in the Army as a military police supervisor assigned to the U.S. State Department. He later joined the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1994.

“I have 30 years of law enforcement experience. My doctoral degree is in organization, and I have a masters in organizational management. It’s a nice tool to have when you’re trying to restructure the organization to rebuild the public’s trust,” Cummings said.

Cummings previously ran for sheriff in 2015, garnering less than 6% of the vote in a field of seven candidates, and in 2019, garnering 38% of the vote in a match up against Republican Mike Williams.

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Cummings said his priorities would be driving down violent crime, increasing community outreach and cutting down on deadly traffic crashes.

He said he would want his officers to be approachable and responsive to people in the community with the Sheriff’s Office partnering with nonprofits, as well as covertly targeting troublemakers.

News4JAX data shows there have been hundreds of murders in Jacksonville in recent years.

He said he wants every employee laser-focused on dealing with violent crime and building the trust and accountability needed to reduce violence.

“The city deserves better,” Cummings said. “And the only way the city is going to get better is if the public is offered a seat at the table.”

Cummings is proposing the formation of a public accountability office that would be totally separate from the Sheriff’s Office to provide accountability and oversight on how the Sheriff’s Office deploys its half a billion dollar budget.

“It’s an independent board that has separate funding. The sheriff does not direct it and I would not allow it to become politicized,” Cummings said.

He said the funding for that board would come from the Department of Justice and the board itself would decide how members will be selected.

“It’s not like the public is micromanaging our operations. They’re telling us what we’re doing wrong in real-time so we can make the adjustment and drive violent crime out of our city,” Cummings said. “And as your sheriff, that’s what I’m laser-focused on, driving out the violent crime, making Jacksonville that beacon that it can be for Fortune 500 businesses to move in. I am tired of being the murder capital of the state of Florida, and we’re going to do something about it.”

The special election for sheriff is on Aug. 23.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter