QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: JOHN RUTHERFORD; Sheriff Reflects on the Triumphs, Trials of His First Year in Office

The Florida Times Union, July 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: JOHN RUTHERFORD; Sheriff Reflects on the Triumphs, Trials of His First Year in Office


One year ago today, John Rutherford took office as Jacksonville's sheriff. On Tuesday, Times-Union reporter Tia Mitchell sat down with Rutherford to talk about his first year on the job. Rutherford discussed his ups and downs as Duval County's top cop, his views on policing and politics, and his vision for the department. Following are excerpts of the question-and-answer session. To read a full text transcript and hear parts of the conversation, go to Jacksonville.com.

Q: This year, a slightly lower percentage of people said they felt safe walking in the neighborhoods at night, according to the annual Jacksonville Community Council Inc. Quality of Life Indicators survey. What would you attribute that to? How do you fix it?

I think some of it could simply be the amount of emphasis that is being put on terrorism these days. I think people just feel a little more unsafe in general, not specifically related to any particular crime. Although I think part of it that could be driving the feeling here is we had the several homicides -- black-on-black homicides -- most of which were drug related. But I put together a violent crimes task force, added an additional homicide team to investigate those. We partnered with the State Attorney's Office. As a result of that, the homicides the last half of the year have been much better than the first half of the year. So I think we've had some real impact there. In addition to that, Operation Showdown. . . .We've gone in with the "broken windows" philosophy of enforcement, and we've really seen crime drop in those areas significantly.

Q: Are you still doing the neighborhood walks, and have you changed the purpose, goal or frequency of these walks?

I am continuing the walks, but as you know one of the things I've committed to do is I'm only going to walk half of them because I'm going to ride the other half with patrol officers. And I've been doing that. I also try to cut back some on the staff that was going out on the walks. I think some people might have been a little intimidated by some of that.

Q: You received a letter from the National Black Police Association alleging race relations have deteriorated in the Sheriff's Office. Do you agree? How are you addressing those concerns?

Well, the letter that I received I think had some real misunderstandings in there. It was from someone outside the agency, and I don't think their assessment of the situation was correct. …

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