A sheriff in north Florida says he will deputize “every lawful gun owner” in his county if protests turn violent.

A report by Fox 13 News, said Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels released a video Tuesday to issue the warning in what he called a fight against “lawlessness.”

Daniels, who was flanked by deputies on either side, said in the video: “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 this county and I’ll deputize them for this one purpose: to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility,” the report quoted.

Fox News 13 cited The Florida Times-Union report that said “Daniels is the first black sheriff of Clay County, which is just south of the Jacksonville area. He is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for the false arrest of a corrections officer with whom he was reportedly having an affair during his time at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.”

The report said Daniels made the video in response to nationwide protests, however, it is unclear whether there have been reports of violence at any protests in Daniels’ jurisdiction.

“We’ll protect your constitutional rights as long as you remain under the umbrellas of peaceful protest or peaceful march. But the second you step out from up under protection of the Constitution, we’ll be waiting on you,” Daniels said. “If you come to Clay County and you think for one second, we’ll bend our backs for you, you’re sadly mistaken,” the report quoted.

The Florida Times Union reported that “Daniels is a first-term sheriff up for re-election who has said he wants to one day be a congressman.” He is being challenged by six opponents, including former Atlantic Beach Police Chief Michelle Cook, former Clay County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management Director Ben Carroll, former Clay County Commissioner Harold Rutledge and Mike Taylor, a former FDLE agent and state attorney’s investigator who has earned the endorsement of former Gov. Jeb Bush, the report said.

He is being accused by his challengers of “inviting chaos to Clay County and insulting the training necessary to become a sheriff’s deputy,” the report said.

“We train under intense situations to control the adrenaline dump,” Taylor said, “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. 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. The citizens of Clay County deserve better than that,” the report quoted.

According to the report, Taylor added that deputizing private citizens could make the county liable to pay out lawsuits if the newly deputized citizens don’t act appropriately. “I don’t believe it was intended to be a pro-police message. I believe it was intended to be a propaganda message. Real police professionalism actually acknowledges that professionally trained police officers cannot be replaced by a swearing-in ceremony,” the report quoted.

That sentiment, the report said, was echoed by Rutledge: \u2033Part of the problem in policing is that some officers need more training in how to interact with all people and all situations, including how to keep calm and how to de-escalate situations. Threatening to ‘make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county and I’ll deputize them’ is going to make the problem worse. Police officers with more than 1,000 hours of law enforcement training can have problems in high-stress situations. Imagine putting a badge on someone with zero training – no de-escalation training, no firearms training, no training with the law. I am not sure what he is thinking, but it is not the kind of thinking we need from our top cop,” the report quoted.

According to the report, Cook said the video was a sign that Daniels wasn’t capable of leading. “What Daniels said yesterday may sound tough and macho. But, instead, it is a call for vigilantism and another signal that he is incapable of leading the sheriff’s department and keeping Clay County safe,” the report quoted.

She added, “Instead of dealing with real issues in a meaningful way, he is behaving like a reality show sheriff and calling attention to himself,” she said. “To make matters worse, he pulled 18 officers off the streets to be used as props for his taxpayer-funded campaign stunt. It’s no wonder morale is so low among our fine officers.” “If I was under criminal investigation by FDLE,” she said, “I’d probably want to change the subject, too,” the report quoted.

The report said, “Carroll, who spent 14 years at the Sheriff’s Office, said he runs a nonprofit that trains churches and private schools, and he believes it’s foolish to think private citizens could replace deputies.”

“I’m sure that was a political production for the sheriff. I doubt seriously that there will ever be the need in Clay County to deputize all the citizens to stand in the gap,” Carroll said. “I believe the sheriff’s department is totally capable of standing in the pike,” the report quoted.

Although Carroll said he supports citizens owning and training to use firearms to protect themselves, the report said Carroll believes the Sheriff’s Office must be capable of handling protesters on its own.


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