Stephen Dare: Mike Williams Best Candidate for Sheriff

May 17, 2015 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The choice for Sheriff seems clearcut. Mike Williams has the experience and the skill set to lead the Sheriff's Office. Stephen Dare makes the case for a pretty conservative guy to take over the top cop job.

In terms of contrasts, the race couldn't possibly be more perfectly cast.

Mike Williams, the young, fit, dynamic, conservative, Homeland Security experienced cop who has the endorsements and approval of both his fellow police and his former superiors vs Ken Jefferson the extremely eloquent, dignified, silver haired, reformer.

They seem the very embodiment of opposites, and at first blush it is easy to find things to be excited about with Ken Jefferson's reform minded speechmaking.

But Williams has qualifications and more importantly perhaps, an outlook that make him the superior choice for a job whose success totally depends on the top guy being as experienced or familiar with every job on the force as well as the person currently doing it.

Which would be Mike Williams.  His impressive resume runs the gamut from beat cop in Springfield to Director of Investigations and Homeland Security.  For a full list of his impressive achievements check out the complete list at the Times Union:

Jefferson on the other hand was recognized as one of the top spokesmen in the country.  An illustrious distinction perhaps,... for a public speaker.  Not so much for someone who needs to do a serious job in which deaths are a possible outcome.

The Mike Williams campaign has stressed the fact that Jefferson has never had any practical experience actually administering.  He has never managed and actual budget, never supervised any employees, and never been involved with a practical application to reduce crime.

The Sheriff must manage a 400 million dollar budget and will oversee thousands of employees.  Whoever is elected must understand working with a complex network of internal law enforcement strategies that are intermingled with other agencies, ranging from other municipalities and counties to the State of Florida and the Federal governments. It seems manifestly apparent that the city would be ill served by a top executive who must learn how to do these things from scratch, who does not have the experience to understand how these complex relationships break down, and more importantly doesn't have the active support of the thousands of men and women who comprise the modern law enforcement complex.

In public appearances, Jefferson has given the impression of a well intentioned bloviator, passionate about the kinds of issues that many of us are passionate about, but lacking in the depth necessary to make any of them happen.

Mike Williams on the other hand is the consummate cop.  He's worked the most dangerous beats, done the most dangerous assignments and asked good men and women to put themselves in mortal danger over the years.

Tellingly, he is trusted and loved by the very people who he has asked to do the most.  They surround him and enthusiastically tell personal stories of his integrity, intelligence and character when out of uniform.  I have met a number of cops who would take a bullet for Mike Williams, so well is he liked and respected on that force.

But these things have been repeated so much that they have almost become memes in this race.

I believe that there are even more compelling reasons to give the final nod to Williams over Jefferson.

Experience is Vitally Important in this Election:

There is an unsaid component going on in this race, and that is the accelerated rate at which changes are happening in Law Enforcement.  In every category, from stewarding resources, to the deployment of new technologies like social media and drones and increased opportunities for surveillance, the very terrain on which Law Enforcement operates is changing as rapidly as the best minds in the country can keep up.

Pension and compensation for Police in a time when public service unions and fraternal orders are under attack nationally is going to be literally fundamental to the future of the JSO.  If we are paying less than every other police force in the state, with less prospects for retirement than any county, we will be facing a talent and professionalism crunch that will return us to the old days of uneducated officers trying to grapple with an increasingly sophisticated and technological arena for crime.

There is pressure from other national forces to blur the lines between municipal police departments and federally managed law enforcement agencies whose tendency for centralization has troublesome possibilities for the future of local autonomy.  

The technology of this world is changing so fast and in such profound ways that the very concept of privacy itself is being redefined daily.  

These things will simply not sit around in stasis and wait for a new head of the JSO to learn a job that he has little or no experience doing.  Events will progress and outcomes will finalize whether or not our Sheriff is prepared to deal with them.

If there is one thing we have learned in this city, it is the inherent downsides of an elected official who must learn his job while in office.

Ken Jefferson is a nice man, and if Mike Williams wins, I hope that he brings Jefferson into the administration to include his advocacy for reform.  But I think that reform must be conservatively administered through the prism of experience and the insight that it brings.

But the problems that must be solved on day one will not necessarily be the ones that have been debated during the campaign.

Lets start with Technology.

In his career, Mike Williams has been the Director of Investigations and Homeland Security. The very hotbed of the application of superior technology, surveillance and security intrusion into the daily lives of citizens.

Mike knows the dangers of that technology.  He has worked with it. He has seen it used. He understands the technology that it is based on.

He also has made every effort to reach out and use that technology to speak directly with the public and answer their questions here on Metrojacksonville. Young enough to sign in and scan the latest comments on the thread from his cellphone.  Can you imagine not being able to do that?  To see Mike's conversations with our readers, click here:,24271.0.html

Jefferson (and the likely group of supporters who will surround him) are from pre-internet generations.  Considering the massive issue and frightening possibilities that this tech represents, it would literally be foolish to elect someone who isn't already intimately familiar with it.

Williams is surrounded by younger energetic people who are already implementing social media in their daily lives and can actually work iPhones. (yes.  this is an actual issue)  There is a digital divide in these two camps, one that is too vitally important to miss.

Mike has demonstrated time and again his awareness of the problems inherent in an easily pierced membrane of privacy.

For example, when Viper Efforts (a collaborative effort between local forces and federal enforcement efforts)  announced that they were going to deploy agents at transit stations and begin demanding to search peoples bags and belongings (speaking specifically of the skyway station here)  Williams was part of the detachment that bucked and successfully nixed this operation. The Sheriff reportedly told the would be  VIPER search agents that he would station a JSO officer with every single checkpoint whose job it would be to inform all citizens approached for search that they did not have to comply with the order as per the US Constitution.

By doing so, Williams established himself as a true conservative--- in the best sense of that word--- who is willing to fight and stand up for the liberties of the people he serves.  He earned the respect of many many officers that day, and proved the integrity of his commitment to this city.

Similarly, Williams has said that he would have no problem with installing body cameras with his officers, with a few provisions.

But those provisions haven't been based on warding against the discomfort of the public servants.  His first concern is that the unintended intrusion of video into the homes and lives of private citizens does not become itself a rich mining ground for criminals and evil doers.

He shared with me the problems of a policeman going on a call into a private home in which there has been a domestic disturbance..  Should all of that footage obtained from the officers be the subject of public records, even in cases where no charges or arrests are made?  Will such recordings become easy study guides for would be burglars or criminals? Can the footage be used to facilitate identity theft?

Under our present laws, such footage, from even the most intimate of situations, would be subject to public records requests.

Williams, whose work with Homeland Security has made him keenly aware of the risks of such information, wants laws in place to protect the citizens before jumping so quickly into the water.

This editor shares that belief.

The fact that Williams is experienced enough to know the risks, and young enough to know how the information can be used, has already proven that he is invaluable to this public issue.  In debates, Jefferson literally had no concern whatsoever. " Lets implement the technology now," he said, "and work out the bugs later."

Putting a private citizen at risk of identity theft or home invasion crimes, however, isn't a 'bug'.  Its a problem.

That Jefferson doesn't understand this, for the reasons described above is emblematic of the numerous fronts where lack of experience and unfamiliarity with the fearsome powers of our technology make him not a good fit for Sheriff.

Williams on the other hand, clearly does.  And more importantly, he speaks up about it, even when regular civilians don't quite yet recognize the potential threat.

He has the support of the force, he has the experience to do the job without wasting a few precious years learning it, and he has the integrity and courage necessary to lead the Sheriff's Office.

Ken Jefferson is a very nice man.  And a great public speaker.  He would make a great spokesman or a reform advocate

But Mike Williams is the real thing, and more importantly he will be able to understand pressing issues of the near future without a 25 year old intern telling him how to log in.

Please vote for Mike Williams for Sheriff.  He's the better choice.

Stephen Dare