Both Lakesha Burton and T.K. Waters condemned the rhetoric that was used by a JSO sergeant on social media.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says racist tweets and text messages that were allegedly shared between members of the JSO gang task force are being investigated.
But what about the people who are campaigning to become the next sheriff?
Each candidate says they are hurt and disappointed after the tweets and texts from members of the gang task force came to light.
“I’m outraged, it’s very hurtful,” said Sheriff Candidate Lakesha Burton, who added that It’s difficult to see the alleged tweets and texts from Sergeant Douglas Howell and other members of the gang task force that appear to demean certain members of the community that they are sworn to protect.
“I’ve spoken with many of the Black officers within the agency who have been reading all the information that’s come out, and it’s disheartening,” said Burton.
First Coast News requested an in-person interview with candidate T.K. Waters. His campaign released a statement, which in part reads:
“There is no place for racism or discrimination in the JSO… I find these alleged posts deeply disturbing. They subvert JSO’s efforts to improve trust, and they undermine our officer’s ability to build bridges throughout Jacksonville.”
Howell attended a Fraternal Order of Police rally Monday to endorse Waters.
Burton said that regardless of which tweets or texts could violate JSO policy, the next leader of JSO should work towards having a department that is inclusive and respectful to the people it serves.
“We need a sheriff who is going to be a sheriff for all,” said Burton. “We can talk about policy, but we have to talk about the hearts and the souls of the police officers that have sworn to serve and protect all communities in Duval County.”
The JSO Code of Conduct says that all employees are made aware that their speech, even if it’s off duty, might not be protected by the First Amendment.
The JSO Code of Conduct is quite detailed and is 24 pages long. A link to the document can be found here.
On the first page under a section about ethics the Code of Conduct states, “I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all.”
JSO does not have a specific policy regarding text messages among officers, but the section about ethics continues “I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith.”
But what about social media? Are JSO officers expected to not be able to express their own opinions about topics on their own time?
According to Part B of the Social Media Policy, JSO employees are prohibited from “engaging in speech, in any form, that ridicules, maligns, disparages, or otherwise expresses bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals.”
First Coast News reached out to JSO to see what disciplinary action is taking place in regard to these texts and tweets.
JSO said that Florida Statute prohibits the organization from saying which officers are being investigated, but JSO did confirm that there is an active internal investigation into social media posts made on an officer’s private account.
Lakesha Burton’s full interview with First Coast News about this topic can be seen here:
The full statement by T.K. Waters to First Coast News about this topic is here:
“There is no place for racism or discrimination in the JSO and I will not tolerate it as your next Sheriff. While it is important that the Sheriff’s Office complete their investigation into this situation, I find these alleged posts deeply disturbing. They subvert JSO’s efforts to improve trust and they undermine our officers ability to build bridges throughout Jacksonville.”
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