Sheriff Waters responds after city transition report says JSO not doing enough to fight violent crime

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters responded on Tuesday after a segment of a city report said the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office isn’t doing enough to fight violent crime.

Last week, a group of ministers told News4JAX they want city officials to have more oversight over a crime-fighting program.

RELATED: Faith leaders, victim advocates want Jacksonville to change approach to violent crime

Since 2016, JSO has run a program designed to cut down on violent crime, but now community groups are coming forward after the report said JSO isn’t doing a good enough job.

The report targeted the “National Network for Safe Communities” program that JSO runs. The report said multiple things that were critical of JSO noting that “in 2022, Jacksonville’s murder rate was the highest in the state.”

“The program as operated by JSO has not produced a reduction in the City’s crime rate,” the report states. “The Group Violence Intervention program should be moved to the newly-formed Department headed by Lakesha Burton.”

Waters said the report is “portrayed negatively.”

“I think if we just would have a discussion,” Waters said. “I wasn’t involved. Not personally involved. I had no discussion with them when the transition report came out. There was a name in that report that I think everyone knows that was the head of what was ever going on with that process.”

Burton, a Democrat, is the woman Waters, a Republican, ran against and defeated in the 2022 election. Mayor Donna Deegan brought Burton into her administration but she recently left for personal reasons.

But Waters said he’s not sure if the report was political in nature.

“I know the mayor didn’t have anything to do with that,” he said. “But I do believe there might have been some politics involved with that name that came out.”

The primary voice backing this move is the organization ICARE comprised of dozens of ministers around the city, many of whom supported Burton politically and want the city to make this move.

“We understand that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has established a group violence intervention program back in 2016. We want a program that reduces the number of murders in Jacksonville. We have not had a consistent decline in our community. That means there’s still a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Rev. Adam Gray of Riverside Church at Park and King.

Waters disagrees.

“Oh, I know they’re wrong,” Waters said. “They’re ministers. I ask them this: Let me come and preach my doctrine in your churches, they wouldn’t let it happen. But when they’re regurgitating things that are already being done and refusing to listen to the answers I’m giving, there’s nothing really I can say after that.”

Mayor Donna Deegan also addressed the report in a statement to News4JAX.

“The transition report includes all recommendations and insights provided by the citizen committee members regardless of whether it will ever become an official administration stance. Mayor Deegan appreciates JSO’s partnership with NNSC and recently spoke at their joint community violence intervention conference,” the statement reads.

Burton said she was not aware her name was used and that the inclusion of her name in the transition report was a recommendation but not one she was consulted on when she was still working for the city.

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