Name: Dr. Tony Cummings
Family: Wife: Dr. Andrea Cummings, Daughters: Eleana and Kyra Cummings
Occupation: 28-Year Law Enforcement Veteran (Retired)
Political/Government experience: Served as a supervisor in the United States Army, Military Police Corp. Also ran for sheriff of Duval County in 2015
Years lived in Jacksonville: Lifelong Native of Jacksonville, Florida
Campaign website: www.tonycummingsforsheriff.com
Why did you decide to run for office: I am running to be the next sheriff of Duval County because I love my city and have dedicated my entire life to defending it. It upsets me to see that violent criminals have taken over our city streets with little or no response from our current sheriff. The sheriff has demonstrated over the past 3 ½ years that he doesn't have a plan to reduce violent crime, and, perhaps even more astonishing, he cannot manage or lead the officers under his command to solve violent crime (e.g. 70% of all murders in Jacksonville going unsolved). All of this on the heels of an 11% budgetary increase from the tax payers (i.e. 25% to 36% of the city's overall budget). I am running for office because we can, as a community, do much better than the status quo.
What do you believe is the best specific approach for combating violent crime in Jacksonville: We must redirect the manpower of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to those high crime areas and disrupt the random crime wave. It has to be a sustained approach that shows the utmost respect for the community; especially those living in many of these troubled areas. Proper management of the redirected resources is the key to driving down violent crime. If you can deny criminals the opportunity to plan, target, and execute their crimes, then -over time- they will find another place to carry out their mischief, or find a different line of work.
As your sheriff, I plan to put in place a necessary sustained police presence in high crime areas of town to allow community non-profits and activists groups with those wonderful prevention and intervention ideas to have a safe enough environment to operate in. If the police cannot render an area safe enough first and foremost, then violent crime will continue to thrive in high crime areas of our city. As your sheriff, I pledge to work tirelessly to bring our city's violent crime problem under control. This questionnaire is too short to layout my entire plan, but my plan does include: a.) aggressively tracking violent parolees to ensure they are not recruiting our children into gangs, b.) pre-positioning officers and resources to target gang activity in a proactive and responsible manner, c.) increase second chance opportunities for our youth by issuing civil citations whenever, and wherever, appropriate with a 75 to 80% issuance goal, d.) empower the citizens to get involved by implementing a Public Accountability Office and Civilian Review Boards inside the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, and double down on transparency inside the agency to allow the citizens to have real information about how their $439 million in tax dollars are being spent. The list of great ideas go on and on. As your sheriff, my administration will begin implementing these solutions on day one in office.
In addition, citizens expect their police officers to keep them safe. As your candidate for sheriff, I believe that the trust between the police and many citizens living in high crime areas across Jacksonville is broken. That is why I have proposed a Public Accountability Office and Civilian Review Boards inside the sheriff's office to help restore that broken trust. The idea that 70% of all murders committed in our city go unsolved is a direct testament to the degree in which the trust between our police and citizens is fractured. Citizens do not feel comfortable enough sharing what they know about these incidences because they've lost confidence in the current sheriff's ability to protect them.
I am a 28-year law enforcement veteran who has spent a lifetime protecting and serving the City of Jacksonville as both a military and civilian police officer. I am also a native of Jacksonville who grew up in many of the "high crime" areas of the city. That said. I managed to navigate my way to a top-secret clearance with the U.S. State Department, while also earning a doctoral degree in the process. I feel that my direct experience with violent crime in Jacksonville's crime riddled areas, coupled with my exposure to high level government and astute academic professionals, will bring much needed knowledge and a wealth of diverse ideas to the table that can help transform our city into the safe and prosperous area that we all desire to live in.
What is your message to the citizens of Jacksonville who believe there is a crime problem: Our city leads the state of Florida in violent crime to include murders. In the month of January 2019, there were 17 murders in 31 days. Murders have increased each year since the current sheriff took office in 2015. The Jacksonville Sheriff Office budget has ballooned to 36% of the overall city budget, up 11% from the 25% under the former sheriff. Despite the huge budget increase for JSO, our city is still #1 in the state in violent crime. I want the citizens of Jacksonville to know that I will work tirelessly on day one to lower violent crime in our city and restore law and order across the First Coast. My plan is a robust series of steps that range from retraining our officers in how to better police "high crime" neighborhoods (i.e., to earn the respect of the citizens living in those areas), to adjusting and redeploying our manpower to drive down crime in a sustainable way, through smart management and strong leadership, that does not increase the JSO budget another dime. I will use all of the knowledge, skills, and expertise that I have acquired in law enforcement over 28-years, coupled with a top-notch education, to responsibly drive down violent crime, while demonstrating efficient and effective stewardship of your tax dollars. My only job as your next elected sheriff is to keep you and your loved ones safe. I will not fail in that mission.
What would be your main budget priority for the upcoming fiscal year: A top budgetary priority for me as your next elected sheriff will be to drive down inefficiencies inside the JSO that have created a culture of unnecessary wasteful spending practices. For JSO to go from 25% of the city's overall budget ($1.2 billion), to 36%, and still have the #1 violent crime rate, clearly illustrates that driving down violent crime is not a monetary issue; it's a management and leadership issue.
How do you define what you hope Jacksonville will be ten years from now:
I envision the city of Jacksonville to be the nation’s hottest up-and-coming tourist destination –in large part- because of a significant decrease in violent crime. I envision our city attracting large corporate high-paying businesses that have a need to employ local citizens, with living wage salaries, that will help improve the quality of life for all through increased tax revenues from spending (i.e., purchase of local goods and services). That’s a win-win for everyone in our city. But it all begins with the reduction of out-of-control violent crime.
EDITOR’S NOTE: WOKV asked all candidates in a race to answer the same questions, and the answers here are their unedited responses. WOKV has not independently verified information in these answers, nor is WOKV endorsing any candidates.