John Lamb, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | July 18, 2016
John Lamb is a candidate for Flagler County Sheriff. He faces five opponents in the Aug. 30 Republican primary including Donald Fleming, Jerry O’Gara, Rick Staly, Mark Whisenant, and Chris Yates. The winner of that primary will face the winner of a Democratic primary featuring two candidates, plus one independent candidate who will also appear on the Nov. 8, general election ballot, Thomas Dougherty. Dougherty is running a self-funded and not very visible campaign.
The Aug. 30 vote is a closed primary: only registered Democrats may vote for the Democratic candidate of their choice, only registered Republicans may vote for the Republican candidate of their choice. Independents and voters registered with minor parties do not get a vote in this particular race until the Nov. 8 general election. Independent voters do get to vote in several other local races that are non-partisan or that will be the equivalent of a general election, including school board, Palm Coast City Council and supervisor of elections.
Of the nine candidates for sheriff, only two, Manfre and Don Fleming, have won elections before. The sheriff’s office has been led by one or the other for the past 16 years, starting with Manfre from 2001 to 2004, then Fleming for eight years, then Manfre again starting in 2013. The race has drawn the most candidates for any single local office, and generated the most expensive campaigns, with total fund-raising (and loans from candidates to themselves) exceeding $200,000 between them, as of mid-July.
The sheriff is paid 126,123 a year. The salary is set by the state based on the county’s population, but paid out of local dollars. The winner will serve a four-year term, controlling a current budget of $25 million, 255 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- What qualifies you to run?
- Character and temperament
- Policing needs
- Sheriff’s evaluation
- Police shootings
- Black fears
- War on drugs and pot
- Best police agency
- Internal affairs
Place and Date of Birth: Jacksonville, Florida May 9th, 1971
Current job: Police Lieutenant, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
Party Affiliation: Republican
Net Worth: $159,281.15 (See the financial disclosure)
Twenty-three years of law enforcement in the third largest agency in the state of Florida [in Jacksonville], I have enjoyed many positions through my career beginning as a Correctional Officer, Police Officer, Police Sergeant, Police Lieutenant and Assistant Chief. As an Assistant Chief I had the great opportunity to command a district by providing police service to over 192,000 people with a staff of over 166 deputies, sergeants and lieutenants. I was also assigned as the Assistant Chief of Logistics and General Support responsible for supply, property and evidence, fleet, building maintenance, building security, and civil, which encompassed a large portion of the operational expense of the agency’s $350 million dollar budget. I have real time experience as a line personnel and administration with experience in continuous improvement philosophies and ideals (LEAN and Six Sigma).
2. Describe your character and temperament, and what people you’ve worked with—or citizens you’ve interacted with—would say are your most serious personal flaws, in so far as how they affect your job. What do you do to address those flaws?
I am a compassionate individual who constantly sets goals for himself. Recognizing that the only thing constant is change I have become very flexible when addressing concerns and enjoy open discussion toward current issues. As personal flaws are related I would say I am impatient. This has at sometimes affected my management abilities as I become impatient towards results, information, and obtaining goals.
How does your impatience affect your temper toward your command staff or those who might challenge you directly?
I realize that everyone works at different speeds and ability and my own personal expectations do not necessarily take precedence. I try to consider how instructions and orders from me will impact operations and I look to solicit feedback from personnel. I realize that stressful timelines and expectations can cause anxiety, so I stay mindful that people have clear instructions, proper skill sets and motivation to address all types of issues.
Complacency: Taking the position for granted and not continuously engaging the community and not continuously staying current in new crime trends, issues and concerns. Additionally a leader can become complacent by not constantly challenging the status quo of the Agency personnel and practices. A leader can mitigate complacency through interviews with employees and citizens to constantly gauge your impact, personal observations and inspections, and collectively identify goals and objectives both realistic and lofty.
Complacency might be fairly interpreted as a managerial or work-ethic flaw. The question goes to your capability of responsibly handling the power of your shield and considerable authority and where, in that context, you see the greatest dangers as sheriff.
For the past 23 years I have handled the power of my shield with great honor remembering the oath of office I took, and the code of ethics I continuously recite. Staying true to the oath and honor of the office I must recognize that influences from outside the Agency will try to sway the office of the sheriff towards their personal agenda and away from the needs of the community.
• Community Engagement: Continuously gauge the needs of the community through monthly Sheriff’s Walks where I will walk a different neighborhood in Flagler County with deputies and supervisors listening to the concerns of the residents, specific to that community, and share the programs and resources the FCSO has to offer, and aid the community with awareness of crime patterns and trends.
• Efficiency: Always looking towards adding value to the process within the agency to ensure we are being good stewards of county funds. Ensure that manpower allocation is meeting the needs of the community and we are deploying officers in areas that “calls for service” justify. Constantly conduct fielded unit analysis to determine staffing is meeting the needs of the community and growth in population.
• Effectiveness: Through career and leadership development the employees of the agency will continue to provide professional service by always improving. We will utilize intelligence-led policing along with “root cause” analysis to identify the driving factors to each crime pattern and trend, and then implement long term solutions to mitigate its reoccurrence.
There is a lot of theory but little concrete examples based in explanations we lay people can understand. For example, in your first point, how would you share programs and resources or awareness of crime trends more than the current administration is already doing through its public engagement? The FCSO staff is worked hard as it is, so with what additional staff or resources would you conduct constant “fielded unit analysis”? In your experience in Jacksonville, can you site an example of a crime trend’s root cause that was identified, and how you mitigated its reoccurrence?
Monthly community walks. I have committed myself to walk a different community each month with the deputies and supervisors working these areas. During these walks we will have crime analysis data specific to that community and listen to additional concerns not reflected in crime data. During these walks we will also promote another community engagement program I am excited about in regards to meeting with community members monthly. These meetings will be geographic specific and we will discuss crime patterns and trends we are observing in their area. Neighborhood Watch Captains are extremely important when we start detecting crime patterns in an area. They are armed with the knowledge of the issues and instructed to contact the members of the neighborhood watch. We also receive information back in regards to what the community is observing that may aid us in our investigative efforts. I will use surveys to solicit feedback from the community and suggestions to address their concerns. I have already begun this practice with a recent survey I launched and from personal interviews with citizens and observations of many communities in Flagler County.
I also challenge line personnel with familiarity with the issues in the areas they are assigned to patrol. I then ask for feedback, suggestions and what steps they have taken to impact change (empowerment). Each member of the Agency needs to understand their role in the overall mission of the FCSO and how they can have a positive impact.
Fielded Unit Analysis is a study of calls for service related to time of day, days of the week and manpower allocation specific to the areas needing resources. It ensures that administration is utilizing their personnel to address response time, proactive community policing, and crime deterrence due to visibility. Crime analysts are familiar with the practice, and this study needs to be evaluated quarterly to include seasonal demands.
Regards to “root cause” analysis from my past experience I have many examples but will share one specific to a community in my district. Jacksonville is divided into six Zones with each zone having three sectors and three sub-sectors in each sector. I was the Assistant Chief of Zone 2 (Arlington and East Arlington to include Mayport) with a population of over 190,000 people. In my analysis of crime data I was detecting an uptick of violent and property crime in the overall zone numbers. With my six watch commanders we determined that one sub-sector was driving the increase of crime both violent and property. Traditional efforts would suggest saturation deployments and an increased show of police presence in the area. My issues with that were it was a “band aid” to the problem and we were only putting out fires until the next one sparked up again. Before starting any enforcement efforts we wanted an over view of the types of crimes, identify the prolific offenders in the area and new to the area, streets and paths that allow for ingress and egress to the community, and input from community members and business leaders.
In our study we learned several things that contributed to the “root cause” of the increase in crime in this specific area. One of the apartment properties changed management and the new manager was not vetting the tenants and was worried about quantity of tenants opposed to quality of tenants. Management was also slow to evict tenants when they were not abiding by the rules of the property. Another apartment property was being used as a halfway house for people recovering from drug addictions or recently released from prison. This information was not shared with anyone in the Sheriff’s Office and new tenants were being dropped into an area with little to no support to resist drug temptations. We also noticed an increase in prolific offenders who were displaced from another area of the city when crime efforts were increased there. With the help of our crime analysis unit we were able to determine that several of them came to this area and began committing crimes. Taking this information and working closely with my community response team we created a plan to address the issues and have a long term impact on the crime in the area. We worked with social services to assist tenants in the half way house properties. We had Parks and Recreation keep the parks cleaned and well lit. Officers worked with our narcotics unit to build strong cases for prosecution and arrest of prolific offenders who were still involved in criminal activity. I had even requested the use of fixed License Plate Readers to gain intelligence on who was coming into the communities and use this information in comparison with other areas in the city affected by similar problems. In summary, we defined the problem, had measurements, analyzed the data collected, implemented improvements with stake holders (community, police, and business) and ensure we had Control methods in place to limit the resurgence of issues in the area (DMAIC). At the one year point of implementing the strategies we observed a decrease in property crime and a significant decrease in violent crime.
An ACLU briefing on license plate readers states: “While it is legitimate to use license plate readers to identify those who are alleged to have committed crimes, the overwhelming majority of people whose movements are monitored and recorded by these machines are innocent, and there is no reason for the police to be keeping records on their movements. Ordinary people going about their daily lives have every right to expect that their movements will not be logged into massive government databases.” Why should the 99 percent of us who are innocent be comfortable with being tracked and databased?
I understand the concerns but I also must weigh those concerns with the needs of Law Enforcement to be able to protect the community from all dangers. My desire is to use the information in attempts to detect criminals coming into Flagler County, deter any thoughts of victimizing the citizens of Flagler County, and possibly delay their attempts to commit additional crimes here or surrounding counties by reviewing the data for certain patterns or trends. Video surveillance is becoming a valuable asset to both law enforcement and private citizens. Many criminal cases have been solved by capturing evidence on surveillance cameras of business and home owners. Even the body worn cameras on police officers has been shown to be an effective tool, and law enforcement encounter many law abiding citizens in their tours of duty.
5. Give us your geographically precise and documented summary of where you see the county’s and Palm Coast’s greatest law enforcement needs, how those needs compare with the way personnel is currently assigned, and what you would do differently, if anything.
Every community in Flagler County is affected by the drug trade to some degree (illegal or prescription). By taking a more proactive stance towards the supply and demand, and breaking the cycle with educating our youths we can have a significant impact on both violent and property crimes. I intend to increase the number of personnel in the narcotics unit, and provide them the training, resources, support and intelligence needed to have an impact in the communities.
Additionally I will address the traffic concerns and issues by utilizing the three “E”s: Engineering, Education, and Enforcement. Through engineering studies and observations we can determine if there are contributing cause to the design of the traffic flow and we can make recommendations for improvements. Education can be accomplished by sharing information regarding areas of concern, high frequency crash intersections, and school zones. Use of public service announcements, flashing marque signage, school safety programs, and warning citations will aid in educating the community of the identified traffic dangers and concerns. Enforcement, identify the areas where citations are to be issue based on quality and not quantity. Utilize innovations in technology to aid in our identifying locations, time of day and day of week to better deploy resources to increase awareness and enforcement.
What is your evidence for this very broad statement, from which you draw an equally broad and seemingly costly shift in coming priorities: “Every community in Flagler County is affected by the drug trade to some degree (illegal or prescription)”? What do you mean by a “proactive stance,” other than school intervention? The current sheriff reduced or ended the practice of serving warrants for marijuana with a SWAT team. Would you resume that practice?
As everyone is aware that no specific section of Flagler County is immune from violent crime and the majority of the time there is a drug nexus. Just recently there was a home invasion robbery in the “F” Section and from my many years of experience the majority of these types of robberies are drug related. Additionally as I strive to engage the community through my knocking on doors campaign efforts we have had number of people across the county cite specific houses that impact their communities with possible drug activity. Many instances these residences have made a complaint to the Sheriff’s Office and some have been addressed but many have not.
Additional proactive efforts will include more staffing, resources, training and valuable intelligence towards addressing the narcotics issues in the county. Additionally, working closely with the North East Fusion Center and surrounding counties to identify prolific offenders involved in the drug trade and sharing intelligence to build stronger cases for prosecution.
I believe the use of the SWAT Team is based on each individual situation for the warrant to be served. Taking into consideration the number of occupants, children, weapons and other identified threats will determine the level of manpower and resources utilized.
6. Putting aside ethical issues that have affected the current and previous sheriff—and that have been amply treated in the press and elsewhere—what are three community-related issues the sheriff has handled well, and three that he’s handled poorly.
• The new decals for the police vehicle provide better visibility for the deputies and are appealing.
• Use of SUVs in areas needing 4 wheel drive capability was a much needed implementation.
• Implementation of step raises was a step towards retention of veteran employees.
• Removal of a tested position (lieutenant) had a negative impact on the morale of personnel which rippled into the service provided to the community.
• Elimination of a full-time narcotics unit towards the growing problems in the community will allow the increase in the narcotics trade and violent and property crime.
• Holding county wide meetings on a quarterly basis as opposed to monthly geographically specific community meeting displays a disconnection with the needs of the community.
7. Turnover has been steep. The average years of experience of deputies on the street has fallen, exposing the public to generally younger, possibly more gung-ho but less seasoned deputies. To what do you attribute the turnover, and what specific steps will you take to reduce turn-over and add experience to our streets?
I have stated before that I believe that many people leave a profession for several reasons. Not treated with dignity or respect, not allowed to make an impact within the agency with suggestions and empowerment, not listened too, not given more responsibility when they show talent and competence and lastly pay. I attribute these towards turnover within the Agency. Empowering employees and stressing the importance of their value to the overall purpose of the Agency is key to creating energy and enthusiasm within the workforce. Allowing personnel to make suggestions and affect change in their areas reinforces the importance of shared leadership. Lastly we need to ensure that pay, career opportunities and development along with advanced career training are a standard within in the agency.
8. Since Sheriff Manfre took over, not a single individual has been killed, shot, or shot at by a Flagler County deputy in Flagler County. (One individual shot himself in a stand-off with deputies in November 2013, and ex-Flagler deputy Daniel Ruddell was shot at last November as he attempted to flee from deputies, including Flagler deputies, in St. Johns County). But there were at least four documented instances of armed individuals who were peacefully apprehended after stand-offs or confrontations. That’s in contrast with numerous police shootings in Volusia and St. Johns over the same period, at a time when police have been under greater scrutiny because of such shootings. To what do you attribute the way Flagler deputies have bucked the trend, and what will you do to ensure that this, as opposed to a more violent, norm, continues?
The Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies have shown great restraint in the listed instances. The community is blessed to have professional deputies who understand the “use of force continuum” and their oath to safeguard lives. Every citizen encounter is unique and situations may escalate without guarantees of a peaceful resolution. Through constant and improved training to include but not limited to, mental health encounters, and less than lethal options it will be my goal to ensure that all deputies are provided the necessary training and tools to mitigate the possibility of use of deadly force.
What is your trigger-point of concern in your analysis of a deputy’s use of force?
Did the Deputy follow policy and state law in the application of use of force, was there an injury due to the use of force and number of use of force incidents an employee is involved in a short period of time. Additionally has the deputy utilize all training and skill sets to attempt to de-escalate a situation before using force. Once force is utilized was it properly documented and reviewed by supervisors and staff for compliance and training considerations.
9. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells his teen-age son, in his National Book Award-winning “Between the World and Me” (2015): “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied, of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protection racket.” Is Coates wrong? Putting what Coates tells his son in the context of a county that was last to desegregate in Florida, and that still has an overwhelmingly white sheriff’s office, tell us how you’d reassure parents of young black men in this community.
Yes I believe Coates is wrong. I truly believe that law enforcement is a noble profession and the men and women who wear the badge are dedicated to provide safety and security for all members they are sworn to protect. I believe fear creates distrust and my goal is to ensure that everyone is trusting of the members of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Continuous community engagement will address many of the concerns of not only the African American population of the county but all members regardless of race or ethnic origin. Through my monthly Sheriff’s Walks and monthly community meetings everyone will be given a seat at the table to voice not only their concerns but also recommendations to improve community and police relationships.
You say Coates is wrong, but you acknowledge that fear creates distrust, and that some of your strategies will be intended to ensure trust. So where is that fear coming from?
Fear is triggered by many sources and a misunderstanding of each person’s perception as it relates to interactions with law enforcement. Through communication and better understanding we mitigate the possibility of negative interactions with law enforcement. As a constant practice of mine I would always take the additional time to explain to people I encounter why I am there and why I am engaging them (traffic stop, personal contact, etc.) I look forward to ensuring that personnel in the FCSO are taking the additional time to address the concerns of the community we are sworn to protect.
10. If you were to give a grade to the war on drugs as it’s been conducted since Nixon, what would that grade be, and why? Putting aside what the law is at the moment, do you think casual pot users—the occasional reefer smoker, the person caught with a few joints—should be criminally charged and jailed, as opposed to issued civil citations? What role should officer discretion play in criminally charging casual pot users?
The grade would be a “C+”. We are holding the line on the war on drugs as it relates to Florida. We are identifying the constant change on the supply and demand and the types of drugs we encounter (heroin, flakka, etc.) and having to retool our strategies to meet the ever changing patterns and trends to the drug trade. I give it a “C+” because I am hopeful that we can stem the tide through involvement with our community, schools and law enforcement. I believe the deputies have the ability to use their discretion in the form of a “Notice to Appear” (NTA). The offender is cited, narcotics are confiscated as evidence, and the violator is provided a court date to answer for violation. The concern for a civil citation needs to be mapped out with all governing bodies and other law enforcement leaders in the county. I would also like to ensure that information is shared with all adjoining counties to avoid duplication of effort and continuity of enforcement. I am not opposed to the use of civil citations with our youth as a diversion program.
11. The Flagler County jail’s bed space has now more than doubled, though for the past decade, including the years of somewhat higher crime during the housing boom years, it served the county’s needs. Despite an increasing population, crime is not increasing apace. Diversionary programs are also helping. But jail beds have a way of abhorring emptiness. What will you do to keep beds from getting filled just because they’re there?
The creation of the larger jail is not an opportunity to fill the beds but ensure we do not violate Florida Jail Standards with overcrowding. The population of Flagler County is expected to increase by 30,000 in the next 10 to 15 years (Florida Chamber of Commerce). We need to ensure we have the space to meet the needs of the future. Diversion programs are a “win win” opportunity as we can have an impact on recidivism, operational costs with housing, and educational achievements. My goal would be to work closely with the judicial system, social services programs, tutoring opportunities and mentoring, and faith based organizations to impact sentencing and recidivism. I will also encourage the use of “Notice to Appear” citations for lesser misdemeanor crimes that apply.
12. In your opinion, and your own places of employment past and present aside, what is the best example of a Police or Sheriff Department in the United States, and why? Please be precise in your choice of agency.
Broken Arrow Police Department (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, pop. 100,000) Broken Arrow Police Department is an agency that has implemented shared leadership (also known as employee empowerment) and was able to show positive impacts within the agency and the community during the four years of the study (2002 to 2006). By empowering employees an agency was able to see improvements in workforce motivation, labor-management relations, productivity, and community-police relations.
Can you provide a link to the original study?
- Shared Leadership: Can Empowerment Work in Police Organizations?
- The Changing Face of Police Leadership
13. If you have been the subject of one or more Internal Affairs investigation or its equivalent, or a use of force complaint, please tell us in what agency, when, what the circumstances or issues were, and what the disposition was in those cases.
14. Question customized for John Lamb: Carpetbagger is, in our estimation, an offensive and un-American term, since Indians aside we are all carpetbaggers to a degree. Nevertheless such characterizations are not scrubbed from political campaigns simply for being offensive, and should fairly be addressed. How do you counter the criticism of being a carpetbagger from Jacksonville?
Thank you for the opportunity to address this concern. First this characterization is not accurate as the definition of a carpetbagger states that a person who moved to the Southern states from the North after the Civil War. Well I did move from Jacksonville which is 30 miles north of here (county line to county line) but have been coming here for some time as I have family and friends here. Additionally I came here in 1998 to assist the FCSO with evacuation of the county during the wild fires and that was my first opportunity to work with the Agency.
Many times cities and counties and police agencies will conduct state wide and national searches for best candidates to ensure they have the knowledge, skills and abilities to meet the needs of the communities. I have lived in Florida my whole life and been a Florida Law Enforcement Officer for over 23 years and I know I will meet the needs and expectations of Flagler County.
Like many people in Flagler County I moved here for a better quality of life for my family and I am excited to bring my energy and enthusiasm to the community that I call home. Many people I have encountered during this journey have shared their concerns with me I am a better person for meeting so many interesting people.
My family and I live here, we worship here, and are excited to be part of the community. Like many people who live here they offer their expertise to the betterment of the community. I have been blessed with an exceptional career and want to offer my expertise of professional Florida Law Enforcement to our community to make it better.