Florida Sheriff wants to deputize legal gun owners to defy violent protesters as 'lawlessness is unacceptable'
CLAY COUNTY, FLORIDA: A Florida sheriff who is up for re-election claimed he would "deputize" every lawful gun owner in his county to put down any violent protests that threatened to overwhelm his force. Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels released a three-minute video on the office's Facebook page where he addressed the recent spate of protests around the country over the Memorial Day death of George Floyd as 18 of his deputies stood behind him in support.
"Me and the men and women of the Clay County Sheriff's Office want to weigh in on what we see going on played out across the mainstream media in this country," he said. "Look, folks, don't fall victim to subjecting yourself to this conversation that law enforcement is bad, that law enforcement is the enemy of the citizens that we're sworn to protect and serve. We swore an oath, and in that oath, we swore to support, protect and defend the constitution of the United States and the government, and that we're duly qualified under the State's constitution to hold office."
Daniels went on to insist that, in Clay County, law enforcement has a "great relationship with our community" and that any kind of "lawlessness" would not be treated kindly. "In Clay County, we have a great quality of life. We have a great relationship with our community. But across this country, not so much. I want to take a stand with these men and women who feel the same way that I do. Lawlessness, that's unacceptable in this country. Lawlessness is unacceptable in Clay County. And if you threaten to come to Clay County and think that, for one second, we'll bend our backs for you, you're sadly mistaken."
He said he and his deputies would support and protect peaceful protests but that, if anyone starts "tearing up Clay County, that is not going to be acceptable" and that he would use his powers as a sheriff to clamp down on the offenders. "If we can't handle you, I'll exercise the power and authority as the sheriff and I'll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in the county and I'll deputize them to this one purpose: to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility," he warned.
While no protests have been planned in Clay County, which has a population of around 215,000, nearby Jacksonville has experienced violence during some demonstrations and was put under curfew last month. "The second you step out from up under the protection of the Constitution, we'll be waiting on you and give you everything you want: all the publicity, all the pain, all the glamour and glory for all that five minutes will give you," Daniels said.
While many were supportive of the sheriff's message, some of his challengers for the upcoming election for his post have come out to criticize him for seemingly promoting vigilante justice. One of them, Mike Taylor, a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent and state attorney's investigator, told USA Today that these lawful gun owners would not have the necessary training to step into high-pressure situations. "We train under intense situations to control the adrenaline dump and we don't do a perfect job at it, but we train to be prepared to make decisions under pressure. That's necessary to be effective," he explained. "To think we can put anyone in that role and it'll be OK, we're asking for a much bigger problem and inviting chaos and anarchy in the streets."