Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard.
Education: AA degree (honors), AS degree in Criminal Justice Technology (honors), bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with minor in Psychology and Criminal Justice (FAMU)
Why are you running for county sheriff?
I am running for sheriff to effect change in my community for the better. I see systemic issues within law enforcement today and the communities they serve, and I believe it’s time for us to go in a new direction. We need someone who is educated and dedicated to make these changes. I will bring better transparency, better programs for rehabilitation, better accountability and better leadership to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, restoring the public-service model intended for our law-enforcement agencies.
What qualities and skills would you bring to the position?
I am a dedicated leader with an extensive educational, business management and leadership background. I possess the tools and skills needed to make the changes necessary to provide a safer environment for ourselves and our children. I am not going to be persuaded by the establishment or “blue curtain.” I will maintain my commitment to do what is right on behalf of the citizens we serve, no matter what.
Why are you the best candidate?
I am the best candidate because I understand what it’s like to be victimized by others and have to fight constantly for your voice to be heard and to have your seat at the table. The other candidates just don’t have the life experiences that I bring to the position. This allows me to understand and effect change from a unique perspective. I won’t have to take a sideline approach to policies and hope they are effective. Based on experience, I know what works and what doesn’t. In today’s climate, the people need a fighter, someone who doesn’t give up.
What are the three biggest needs of the Sheriff’s Office now, and how would you work to fill those needs?
I think the biggest needs today start with restoring trust between the community and law enforcement. One of the ways this can be done is by changing the types of interactions between law enforcement and increasing non-law-enforcement interactions between citizens and law enforcement. In my platform, I have discussed mandatory non-law-enforcement community-service hours to help restore trust and build relationships. I think accountability is another much-needed aspect in the Sheriff’s Office. We have to set the tone that while we are responsible for enforcing the law, we are also responsible for obeying those laws. Lastly, I think it’s important to make the citizens feel involved in their Sheriff’s Office. I plan to address this by reforming the CRB and making it have the necessary subpoena powers it should, either indirectly or directly, and defending those changes. I want the people I serve to feel that they are being protected and listened to. I don’t want and will not tolerate a dictator or authoritarian style of policing.
How should the Sheriff’s Office change or grow following the nationwide unrest caused by the death of George Floyd?
I think the situation involving Mr. Floyd is a symptom of bigger problems we have faced within the minority community for a long time. Moving forward, we have to ensure officers are held accountable and a climate is created where this will never be a tolerated type of behavior. Racism and bigotry have no place in law enforcement or public service. Having a sheriff that represents more of the same isn’t going to change the climate and will further create issues like that of Mr. Floyd. I am the new direction we need to ensure that climate no longer exists.
How can the Sheriff’s Office relationship with the community improve?
I think we have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to our relationship with the community. As I stated earlier, we have to restore trust and accountability for that relationship to improve. Without these components, we are just running in circles. In doing so, I think respecting each other can go a long way in restoring trust. The stereotypes or impatient attitudes we’ve seen used in the past damage relationships and prevent us from achieving growth.
As West Orange County continues to grow, how should the Sheriff’s Office change to accommodate that growth?
As the county continues to grow, it is the responsibility of the sheriff to maintain awareness of that growth and maintain the safety of its citizens. Whether that be additional patrols, increased staff, more outreach and prevention programs or other resources, I will make sure the citizens have it. I want our citizens to be able to live their lives free and happy without the need to worry about their safety and that of their friends, family (and) loved ones. That will be my commitment to you as sheriff.