After nearly 40 years in law enforcement and about a decade as the Alachua County Sheriff, Sadie Darnell lists among her accomplishments strides to address mental health issues and domestic violence while strengthening community outreach.
And despite flack her administration and Gainesville Police received after the fatal shooting of a suicidal teenager in March, Darnell said she feels confident she will defeat Republican candidate and former sheriff’s office Lieutenant Jack Jacobs on Nov. 8.
“I know this community really well,” Darnell, a Democrat, said. “My involvement definitely sets me apart. My experience surpasses his.”
With increased mistrust of law enforcement around the country, it’s been part of her agenda to use all opportunities to show responsibility and courtesy to the community.
“It boils down to treating others as they’d like to be treated,” she said.
Darnell, a Gainesville native, said living with her mother, who was clinically depressed, has given her insight to handle psychological issues within the community.
But after deputies and GPD officers fatally shot Robert Dentmond, 16, an incident later ruled justifiable by a grand jury, Darnell’s administration was criticized for its use of force.
In September, Darnell responded by implementing the Emergency Mental Health Dispatch Protocol, which aims to train dispatchers and deputies to more effectively respond to such cases.
Another top priority, she said, was domestic violence, which accounts for the majority of calls to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Combined Communications Center.
In 2009, she implemented the Lethality Assessment Program, which is a series of questions deputies ask domestic violence victims to find out how at risk they are for further abuse or death. It also provides the victims with immediate access to protection services.
During her time as sheriff, she’s managed everything in the department — including the jail, the budget and the communications office. Despite three decades of work, Jacobs is not as experienced to lead the county’s law enforcement arm, she said.
“He’s done 31 years of service, but he’s never managed any of that,” she said.
For Jack Jacobs, a retired lieutenant with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, more than 30 years of experience dealing with active shooter scenarios, hostage-rescue cases and large-scale drug operations make him a qualified candidate for sheriff.
The 53-year-old Republican, who retired in May, is running against his former boss, Sheriff Sadie Darnell, a Democrat who has held the position for more than a decade.
Jacobs said Darnell only wants to keep her position for its authority and prestige, while he wants to make an actual difference in the lives of county residents.
“I think it’s time for someone with fresh, new ideas and time for someone with more experience handling some of the currently trending topics,” he said, referring to widespread mistrust of police.
Jacobs said he believes his hands-on experience working as a member of ACSO’s SWAT team and as a law-enforcement instructor will help him reform community policing.
Jacobs criticized Darnell for implementing programs like Coffee with a Cop and Youth Dialogue, which he said set out to create a friendly relationship between deputies and residents but ultimately failed.
“They’re feel-good programs that are done for show,” he said. “But they’re not effective in what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Changing Darnell’s current administrative system is another one of Jacobs’ goals. He said he believes eliminating duplicate, high-paid positions will free up money to hire more deputies and detectives.
“We’ve got detectives that have two- or three-hundred cases apiece,” Jacobs said. “There’s no way one person can handle 200 cases. The recommended average is 10 to 20.”
Updating technology within the sheriff’s office and adding a DNA evidence lab are among the other key parts of his agenda, he said.
“Anything that makes our job more efficient means we’re spending less time writing reports, trying to do administrative duties, and gives us more time to be out with the public and actually patrolling,” he said.