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Orange County Sheriff Candidates On Reducing Violent Crime, Protecting Schools, Accountability

Top issues for Orange County sheriff candidates include school safety, tackling the homicide rate and putting more resources into policing a growing county

On this episode of Intersection, we continue our coverage of some of the key races in Central Florida’s mid-term elections with conversations with the candidates for Orange County sheriff.

John Mina is retiring from his position as Orlando Police Chief- his last day at OPD is this friday. Joe Lopez is a retired Florida Highway patrol chief who now heads up security at Disney’s Epcot. And Darryl Sheppard says he’s running to bring more transparency and accountability to the office.

John Mina

“Most of the homicides, both in Orange County and in the City of Orlando, are drug related that’s why both agencies do many operations,” Mina tells Intersection.

“We are working hard to go straight to the dealers,” he says.

John Mina. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Mina says as sheriff he would emphasize training to ensure schools are safe.

“We have been doing active shooter training for many years and in addition to that, specifically for our school resource officers, we had them go through additional training and we make it very clear that they are there to protect those children and they are there to save lives even at risk to their own lives.”

And Mina says  while an Orlando Sentinel investigation highlighted cases of excessive use of force within the Orlando Police Department, he stands by his record on reducing the use of force by his officers.

“When I first took over as chief, I put certain measures in place to reduce the amount of use of force specifically excessive force,” says Mina.

“Some of those measures include de-escalation training, different policies, change in policies, training on shoot/no shoot, decision based training, and ethics and civil rights training by the FBI,”

Darryl Sheppard

Darryl Sheppard says he wants to “change the system” as Sheriff. Sheppard says he is the only candidate who knows what both sides of an arrest feel like, and he wants to bring about more accountability to the sheriff’s office.

Darryl Sheppard. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

“I think that we have a lot of distrust between law enforcement and the citizens that they serve,” says Sheppard.

“We want to make it more transparent, bring some accountability.”

Sheppard says he wants to take another look at some offences where an arrest may not be the best response.

“When you look at other issues such as mental health, the opioid crisis I think is really big in Florida and looking at trying to get [addicts] treated as opposed to thinking that jail is a solution, that we could just lock everyone up,” says Sheppard.

“We need to put more money into establishing rehab centers, establishing treatment options, getting with treatment professionals, mental health professionals, and trying to get these people connected to treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to criminalization.”

Joe Lopez

Joe Lopez, a retired chief in the Florida Highway Patrol, now heads up security at Epcot.

Lopez says he wants to focus on bringing down the violent crime rate and boosting the use of technology to help fight crime.

Joe Lopez. Photo: Shanya Richburg; WMFE

“My platform appears to be resonating with the community and that’s to reduce violent crime and the second part of that is community policing and the third part is to have a robust recruitment and retention program,” says Lopez.

He says placing deputies in every school is only part of the solution to making schools safer.

“My experience as a United States Marine on embassy duty, and also I lead the security team at Disney, the entrance is the vulnerable part. If you can harden and prevent anybody from coming to the entrance then the foundation will be secure.”

Lopez says if elected, he would be the first Latino sheriff in Orange County.

“I didn’t think much about it when I first did it, being so diverse [and] coming from diversity however you’re reminded as you’re on the campaign trail when others take notice of that,” says Lopez.

“I’m proud, it makes me work harder because competition is fierce.”

“It gives me purpose and it give me drive but I will be the sheriff for everybody, I will be the people’s sheriff.”

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