Larry Jones wants to be Sheriff of Flagler County. Of course, that’ll be easier said than done; Flagler’s current sheriff has been fully embraced by the community since inauguration. Jones concedes that Sheriff Staly has done a good job fostering popularity, but the 30-year law enforcement officer and former police sergeant thinks he offers an improvement upon the work Rick Staly has done.
“We must rebuild trust between citizens and law enforcement,” Jones says on his campaign’s Facebook page. Indeed, trust in our nation’s police is at a historic low. PBS NewsHour reported in June that two thirds of black Americans don’t trust the police to treat them equally. Balancing the challenge of being an effective sheriff while still living up to the size of this moment will certainly be tough, but Larry Jones thinks he’s the man for the job. AskFlagler reached out to Jones to find out just how he plans on rising to the occasion.
Your opponent is one of the more popular sheriffs in Flagler County’s recent memory. What would you tell those who are pleased with his job performance these last four years?
“The current sheriff is popular, there is no doubt about this. Of course, I feel I can carry on very well with the continued excellence of the department. Meanwhile, I will strive to develop progressive ways to continue to improve our law enforcement. Times have changed and we need to be aware more so than ever to ensure all citizens are dealt with equally and respectfully. Specifically, this includes dealing with various circumstances in a non-confrontational manner. We must absolutely keep in mind the concept of being fair at all times. De-escalation and the manner in which we approach the various problems that arise in law enforcement and policing are truly more important in these sensitive and turbulent times.”
You’ve been seen around events held by NAACP organizers to support the Black Lives Matter movement. How does the spirit of Black Lives Matter, a group that’s very outwardly frustrated with law enforcement, play into the job of a sheriff?
“Yes, I have been around NAACP events and I support the Black Lives Matter movement. The sheriff, whoever he might be, needs to listen to and understand our changing society in the 21st century. History and the most recent events do not lie. Additionally, law should be regulated and enforced equally to ensure everyone’s right of freedom and happiness per our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.”
What are some areas in which the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office needs to improve? What would you do as sheriff to make those improvements?
“Within the leadership, more due diligence could be expected in treating all individuals with respect and dignity. I would pay close attention to communication and understanding first and foremost in order to achieve the best Sheriff’s Department possible.”
You’ve talked before about growing up in segregation-era Bunnell, and how you’d have dogs sent after you when you visited relatives in Espanola. Having lived around here your whole life, how have things changed since those days? Do you think those evil sentiments still exist in rural Flagler County today, passed through generations?
“I was born and raised in Bunnell, this is true. My education, training, and experience make me uniquely qualified to be our next sheriff of Flagler County. Unfortunately, yes, sentiments remain through generations. The social atmosphere has changed and progressed through the years but there are so many systemic needed changes not yet made. Human and civil rights are the most important for all concerned.”
“In all things human it should simply be about right and wrong, and doing what is best for the community at large.”
Your opponent recently posted a photo on Facebook showing a sex offender and drug dealer being arrested, with your campaign sign in the foreground of the photo. The caption attempted to draw some correlation between the individual’s felony arrest and his opposition of your opponent’s campaign. Was the controversial post fair or foul?
“The incident with the alleged sex offender and drug dealer may be interpreted by everyone for themselves. What the caption ‘attempted to draw attention to’ or the connection of the politics again is hearsay and up to everyone to examine for themselves through their own sense of what is right and wrong. Free press is neither fair nor foul, especially if really factual.”
As of this November, you’ll have been retired from the force for four years. How have you kept up on the needs of the County’s police department in that span to prepare yourself for the job of sheriff?
“I have and always will stay totally informed on everything that is going on with policing within our community and nationwide as well. I have continually grown in my understanding of excellent leadership and communication needed to continue to improve the sheriff’s services in all aspects for the community.”
Earlier we touched on your involvement with BLM events and your experience with racism. What’s your take on calls to defund the police? Should certain funds be allocated to other personnel to cover duties currently executed by sheriff’s deputies?
“The police department should not be defunded. My personal beliefs regarding BLM and racism are just that. I will abide by my duty and the law. Again, in all things human it should simply be about right and wrong, and doing what is best for the community at large. With major social, economic, and political upheaval locally and throughout America we must learn and change in accordance with law and basic moral structure developed for our country from the beginning of our time and foundation. Understanding and communication are the keys to progress going forward. Better training and education will enable us to better deal with mental issues and the many varieties of problems that present themselves in today’s policing. Growing and change are inevitable.”
In the past you’ve touched on wanting to expand the Police Athletic League, and one year you even took underprivileged children Christmas shopping at no expense to their families. What role does reaching the community’s youth play in preventing crime?
“It is all about our youth and education! The P.A.L. is very much important. Yes, I will continue to develop and grow the program for taking underprivileged children shopping at Christmas time. Developing our socialization and education [going] forward is very important in preventing crime, as are specific programs to develop youth in all aspects of life. I will always support our youth programs in all areas.”
Lastly, give us the campaign pitch. Why are you the best choice for Flagler County Sheriff this November?
“Vote for me because I will bring a united front to the Sheriff’s Department. United in service, and to responsibilities in the community. Integrity and honesty are most important to me. I will work very hard and diligently to maintain and improve the Sheriff’s Department in all facets of operations and administration. I stand for common decency and working together. Bring community understanding and compassion back to our reality.”