JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Monday marked one year since Sheriff TK Waters was sworn in as Sheriff after winning last year’s special election.
He won his first full term this summer.
In an exclusive interview, the Sheriff spoke to Action News Jax about his first year in office leading the agency he served for three decades-- The good, the bad, and the ugly.
“I look back and I can’t believe it’s been a year already,” said Waters.
Waters said he believes he’s delivered on many of the promises he ran on, including redrawing patrol zones.
Unveiled in July, Waters said the new maps have provided officers with more opportunities to interact with the community.
“We’ve seen that patrol officers get the opportunity to do a little bit more without running from call to call, which was one of our goals,” said Waters.
He added the agency will soon review data and statistics to evaluate the impact those new zones have had.
“We’re gonna take a close look at it at the end of the year to see what kind of changes we made in response to call time response and those things, which is what our hope is, to see a change there,” said Waters.
Preliminarily, Waters said he believes the effort likely contributed to the drop in homicides.
The city is on pace to see a 20 percent reduction compared to last year.
“Going out and addressing the people that we know are the shooters, and also our community just being vocal,” said Waters.
Sheriff Waters also managed to secure funding for 80 new officers in his first year.
He attributed that success in part, to his working relationship with Mayor Donna Deegan.
While there have been moments of apparent tension, Waters said he and Deegan have grown to become friends.
He also noted he’s optimistic about the long-term impacts of some of Deegan’s plans to revitalize the Jacksonville Journey, specifically the emphasis she’s put on literacy.
“And the trust is growing. And I think we’re doing a disservice to our community if we don’t work together,” said Waters.
Waters is now in the process of filling the 80 new positions.
“We have a class coming up in January and we’re gonna have another one in March. We’ll be able to fill those positions,” said Waters.
He’s also looking to add even more officers in the near future, to reach his goal of increasing the agency’s size by 216 by the end of his first term.
“And the desire is not to overburden taxpayers. I believe with the people that moved in Duval County, we’ll be able to fund what we need to fund,” said Waters.
As part of attracting new officers, particularly corrections officers, Waters said he anticipates seeking the ability to offer more competitive salaries and benefits from the city.
“What it boils down to is it’s about money, it’s about benefits, it’s about being able to take care of a family on a police salary or a corrections salary,” said Waters.
Sheriff Waters also said he hopes when a plan is completed to build a new jail, mental health services are incorporated into that conversation.
“We’re gonna put an intake place in that new facility to direct you through some services,” said Waters.
When asked about his most difficult time since taking office, the Sheriff recalled the shooting of Officer Malik Daricaud.
“That young man is still wheelchair-bound. He’s still going through therapy. He still needs assistance to walk,” said Waters.
He also highlighted the racist mass shooting.
“A maniac came into our city and did something that was horrendous to people just because of what they look like. I think what spoke volumes is the way our city stuck together,” said Waters.
The Sheriff was faced with another challenge recently when a video of alleged police brutality by a JSO officer went viral.
Waters immediately held a press conference showing the body cam footage and stood by the officers involved.
A recent letter from the DOJ also determined the officers’ actions to be justified.
“I made a pledge to this community that we’re going to show the good, the bad, and the ugly and we will because we owe it to this community for them to see what’s going on,” said Waters.
A recent UNF poll showed Sheriff Waters with the strongest support of any local elected official.
He said he believes that approval is a reflection of his efforts to increase transparency and engage with the community.
“When you get the job and you show that it’s not about politics, it’s about people, it’s about taking care of this community, I think people can genuinely see that my desire and this agency’s desire is to do that. Take care of people, take care of this city,” said Waters.
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