Editor’s Note: It is our goal to provide good news and information to lift the community we serve Higher. We publish many articles during the election season because improving the community depends heavily on its leadership – the people who make important decisions that affect residents’ livelihood. One key leadership position in the county, Orange County Sheriff, is up for election in the Nov. 6 General Election, replacing Sheriff Jerry Demings who got elected to be our next county mayor. Demings will remain in the position until December 4, when he is sworn into office as county mayor. The new Sheriff will serve a remaining two years. The Sheriff is our top law enforcement officer. Gun violence has reached unimaginable heights and locations. Over the next two years (the reminder of Demings’ tenure), whomever gets elected to the office will have to work effectively with state and county officials, as well was school district officials to make sure children are safe in school – for example.
We asked the three candidates vying to be the next Orange County Sheriff to complete a questionnaire to help our readers who may not have made a final decision in this race. The candidates are: Jose “Joe” Lopez, John W. Mina and Darryl B. Sheppard. Two of them responded: Mina and Lopez. Read on for their answers.
Q: Besides hiring more deputies, how would you combat the serious crimes running rampant throughout the county and protect our children in school? What are your short term goals to lower overall crime?
John W. Mina:
I believe it will take a combination of the following initiatives: Proactive policing, continuing to engage with the community to build trust, and a collaborative effort between law enforcement and community groups and members. Both Sheriff Demings and I have financially supported the POWER movement which just started in Pine Hills in partnership with the Central Florida Urban League. This program is very similar to Operation Cease Fire and the Walking One Stop programs that have been successful throughout the country. Law Enforcement will be responsible for identifying the “at risk” individuals that have a high probability in being involved in gun violence. We will work with the community to intervene and get people they help they need to stop the cycle of committing crimes. This can be in the form of drug/alcohol prevention and treatment, mental health treatment and opportunities for employment. If the identified individuals refuse the help and continue to commit crimes, then law enforcement will arrest and work to ensure successful prosecution especially when dealing with violent or repeat offenders.
Jose “Joe” Lopez
We will be aggressive in focusing on priority offenders with a history of violent
crime who continually prey on our community. We will work closely with the State
Attorney’s Office to ensure once they’ve been arrested, they receive appropriate
sentences to keep them behind bars. Far too many of these offenders are
arrested and right back out there to victimize other members of our community.
The people of Orange County deserve better.
Gun crime isn’t an issue unique to Orange County but it is a serious one that we
have to get our arms around. I’m committed to addressing this issue head on
and everything is on the table. This includes restructuring the departments
specialty units to prioritize the reduction of gun crimes. The criminal element is
always changing and we in law enforcement have to be just as flexible in our
ability to make appropriate adjustments. The old school way of doing business is
over. We need new innovative ways to keep members of our community safe,
anything less would be irresponsible. I’m not foolish enough to think I have all of
the answers, that’s why I will immediately begin routine conversations
and develop partnerships with anyone and everyone willing to help in the
reduction of gun crime.
We’ll run the department using best practices and creating innovative organizational
programs. Enhancing preparedness and counter terrorism.
Violent crime reduction will also require us to police not only harder, but smarter.
We need to invest in our community with the most up-to-date crime fighting
technology to keep community members safe. (Editor’s Note: A technology list was provided but for the sake of brevity, it was not included.)
There is no one single solution to this problem of the killing of our youth, our future
leaders of our community and our nation. My wife of 28 years works in a school for the Orange County Public School system and my two children attended schools in the same system, and are now attending the University of Central Florida. Therefore,
this is personal to me and it sickens me that our children are filled with anxiety about
their safety in a place where it’s supposed to be free of harm. As the sheriff, I can’t do
this alone and I will bring the community together to partner and collaborate with
community organizations, parents and faith-based organization to develop solutions and
get buy in. With my background as a Security Executive at Walt Disney World and as a
United States Marine protecting U.S. Embassies around the world, I understand what it
takes to protect our precious assets.
In addition, I will do the following:
– Work closely with the School Board to ensure we
have the appropriate School Resource officers assigned at every school.
– Partner with and assist the O.C.P.S. in conducting security threat assessment for all
the schools in Orange County.
– Partner with O.C.P.S. in developing joint active shooter drills for all the teachers
and students in the same manner that fire drills are conducted. Also, to assist the
O.C.P.S. in conducting the training every semester.
– Partner with the O.C.P.S. in participation in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian
Program, which recruits and trains current or retired military veterans and law
enforcement officers. This will be a force multiplier which provides another layer
of security to the schools.
– Provide education to O.C.P.S. officials, employees and students in active shooter
awareness, the same concept as Dare and Magic.
– Work with the Federal government in securing more funding for school safety
and developing digital messaging for school safety in the same manner of drug
– Use forfeited drug dealer money to fund school safety software like Hero 911,
which is an app dedicated to protecting the students and teachers of our
community during active shooter incidents.
Q: With all that’s going on with police involved shootings nationwide, what are your plans to engage with the Orange County community better which may reduce excessive force and police involved shootings?
John W. Mina:
I have a very strong and visible record of engaging with the community while I have been Chief at the Orlando Police Department. We have numerous formal and informal community engagement programs to include mentoring programs for our youth, community BBQs, Coffee with a Cop; Citizen Police Academy, Teen Police Academy; Town Hall meetings, Books and Badges, Dueling Dragons mentoring program and our Operation Positive Direction mentoring program. We also partner with community businesses to do Christmas parties and give out Christmas dinners. One of our most successful programs is Neighborhood Watch. We have over 1000 neighborhood watch block captains and this has helped us drive down crime, specifically residential burglaries in Orlando. I plan on bringing all of these community engagement efforts to the Sheriff’s Office to build upon the great work that Sheriff Demings has already done. Additionally, because of training, new policies, and accountability of our offices, I have been able to reduce the number of use of force cases and officer involved shooting cases in Orlando. I plan on adopting the same initiatives at the Sheriff’s Office to reduce excessive force and police involved shootings.
Jose “Joe” Lopez:
I will be a sheriff that promotes transparency to the community and transparency
to the media. We must be transparent and not misleading to the media. It’s never
acceptable to deviate from the training law enforcement receive in the academy and
allow our emotions to drive our decisions. The community expects more from the men
and women charged with serving them. We also can’t let the actions of a couple of
officers paint the whole profession. The overwhelming majority of members of law
enforcement do the right thing and serve honorably.
While I was Chief of Investigations at the Florida Highway Patrol, I also led the
Internal Affairs unit.
I will ensure the following:
- All excessive use of force cases will be investigated immediately and concluded between 30-90 days, not 11 months.
- We will work with the State Attorney’s Office to determine if probable cause exists to file charges against those deputies that have committed crimes.
- Inform the media and public the findings of the investigation upon conclusion, to ensure transparency.
Q: This is a key position for Central Florida, with the number of visitors we have and influx of people moving here daily and crime being committed by young people – seems as though they are getting younger and younger. Why should voters entrust you to keep them and their families safe?
John W. Mina:
Because I am the only candidate who has a strong record of working in this community to keep it safe. I have been a resident of Orange County for 28 years and have been serving as a law enforcement officer in this community for that long. I am Chief of Police of the largest police department in Central Florida and the 4th largest in all of Florida. Since I have been chief, crime has been reduced and juvenile civil citations which has caused less juveniles to be put in handcuffs and arrested. Simply put, I have proven myself in this community and I am trusted by our residents to keep them safe.
Jose “Joe” Lopez:
It is my passion to continue willingness to serve the community as I have been for 40+ years. The reasons for seeking election to be the Sheriff of Orange County is for
three reasons: a better, safer, place for all of us to live, work, play and raise families. I
believe that with my proven effective leadership that the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office will focus upon accomplishing identified goals to reduce youth crimes:
- Engage the youth at schools and partnering with the private sector, faith-based
community to mentor and develop after school programs.
- Leverage the Police Athletic League program and have a robust recruitment process to encourage the youth community to participate.
- Intelligence: Develop better relationships and trust with the community, so the community can be the eyes and ears and report such crime committed by youth.
- Resources: Create a robust Anti-Gang unit that consists of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, to include adjoining counties.
- Targeting enforcement: Work with the State Attorney’s Office to ensure that the proper maximum sentence is applied so that criminals do not return to the streets and prey on our community.
For more information on the Nov. 6 General Election or early voting, visit the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office website: http://www.ocfelections.com. You can also visit the candidate’s websites for more information. Mina: minaforsheriff.net and Lopez: joelopezforsheriff.com
© Orlando Community News, 2018