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JSO Sheriff Candidate Addresses Issues With Business Leaders

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jacksonville, florida – Two weeks later, voters will choose Jacksonville’s new sheriff in a special election on August 23. On Tuesday, the candidate spoke with potential voters at a forum with the Jacksonville Zoo’s Northside Business Leaders Group.

Candidates spoke directly with influential business owners. Questions were asked about gangs, crime and transparency.

Four of the five candidates answered some direct and important questions at a forum held on the Northside.

RELATED: News4JAX and JU Host Sheriff Debate Wednesday at 8pm | | Debate: What would you like to ask the sheriff? | | News4JAX Voter’s Guide, Sheriff Candidate

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Rakesha Barton contracted COVID two weeks ago. She no longer has it, but she was unable to attend as she is recovering from the side effects of the virus.

The candidates all have law enforcement experience, but tried to set themselves apart in their answers. Each candidate had different views on police transparency to public and private review boards.

“On my first day in office, I will be signing a contract with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate all police-involved shootings and all custodial deaths,” said Ken Jefferson.

Jefferson, a Democrat, also said there would be an internal investigation and a civilian committee to hear public opinion.

Republican TK Waters says the JSO is already transparent but could do more.

“We need and will do better, but I think it’s important to message people in our community directly so they understand what’s going on in our area. We have some plans to be able to do that,” said Waters.

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So did Wayne Clarke, a Democrat. “What I suggest is having an internal dashboard so when we get a complaint, we know there was a complaint,” says Clark. “We can’t list the officer. Until we decide what to do with that officer, we can’t list the details due to confidentiality.”

Clark also wants the FDLE and a trained Civilian Oversight Board to investigate the officers’ involvement in the shootings and custodial deaths.

Democrat Tony Cummings says money is being wasted on cops living in other counties and the JSO needs to be more open.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need transparency and trust from our community. It’s about making sure you’re doing the right thing with your taxes,” Cummings said.

Jacksonville has had its share of violence. Candidates differed in their definitions of gangs and how they effectively countered them.

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“We need to know who those people are, we need to give them room for change, we need to take full responsibility for law enforcement,” Clark said.

Cummings replied, “Jacksonville doesn’t have a gang problem.”

Jefferson said, “What I do as Sheriff is to infiltrate those areas by building relationships with the communities that surround gangs.

“I created a program at the Sheriff’s Office to engage with these young people across the community,” Waters said. “We keep working, we keep getting better, we keep pushing. I’ve seen young men killed all over these streets.”

Additionally, each candidate said they were disappointed by the delay in action during the Uvalde shooting in Texas, which killed a child and a teacher, and said they and their leaders would have been inside the school immediately.

While they say all men are Christians and pro-life, Cummings believes women should decide what happens to their bodies.

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Candidates were also asked, “What is JSO’s biggest challenge?”

Cummings said the agency was wasting money and didn’t need more officers.

Jefferson said there is a need for more positive police community relations.

Waters said officers need adequate resources.

Clark also called for better relationships with the police community and better money management.

Burton was unable to attend Tuesday’s forum, but said he will attend the News4JAX debate Wednesday night at Jacksonville University. The debate will begin at 8:00 pm and can be viewed on Channel 4, The Local Station, News4JAX.com, or the News4JAX+ smart TV app.

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