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A Farewell Message from Sheriff John H. Rutherford

June 09, 2015

In the past 12 years I have been honored to serve this great city as its elected Sheriff. Despite all the challenges, and the constant state of change, I have never had one single day where I didn’t spend time in quiet reflection about the awesomeness of the responsibility I had been given, and prayerfully thank God for the opportunity to be of service.

Despite the many challenges we have faced both as an agency and a city, I never found this job to be a burden or a drudge. Actually, I found (and still find) every day to bring promise …the chance to make a difference, improve someone’s situation, and hopefully impact (for the good) on our quality of life.

I am, for those of you who don’t know me, a man of faith. I proudly call myself a Christian, and despite all the criticism and “sideways looks” that it sometimes evokes, I do believe that this is the foundation upon which all my beliefs and principles are based.

Making hard decisions isn’t necessarily difficult for me. I was expertly trained as a law enforcement professional, and for the past 40 years have honed those skills. I have always strived to respect others and take into account that in all transactions I am dealing with people who may have a different perspective, belief, or history than I did. But that doesn’t mean that we were necessarily at cross-purposes. I find that the best solutions are often compromises where both parties give a bit, and that keeping your word is more important that being right. Some of these beliefs I’ve always had and some have crystallized as these past 12 years have unfolded. But I continue to believe with all my heart that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

There are for me some other universal truths – every mother feels unimaginable agony when a police officer tells her that her son or daughter is dead. Sometimes these deaths were avoidable: better choices; better parenting skills; better supervision; more choices for struggling single parents; could something have prevented these senseless deaths. Sometimes they were tragically random and unavoidable; like being the victim in a car crash. Sometimes there were underlying issues such as mental illness or drug abuse. In the end, it didn’t matter – nothing will ever hurt a police officer as much as looking into the eyes of a mother, a wife, a father, a brother, and telling them their loved one is dead.

Please know this: no matter what comes next as our city’s future unfolds – we must all remain committed to ensuring that free and low cost private and public resources for our youth regain their importance in both our philosophy and our funding priorities. And we must commit to the public we serve every day, that in addition to the core function of keeping peace and order by stopping lawlessness, we will also continue to offer help, provide alternatives, help change the course of a life – both inside the jails and outside on the streets.

Crime prevention and intervention are a bit “elusive” to measure, in that we will never know what didn’t happen because a caring person stepped in and said “there are services that can help you – let me get you help” or if we, as law enforcement, spend a little more time with a small child who is headed down a dangerous road, and in showing them another path change the course of his or her life. We know these programs work and I know our next Sheriff, Mike Williams, is committed to making sure crime prevention programs and intervention programs that are well managed continue to receive our support.

I have directed more than $3.7 million dollars in drug forfeiture money (NO TAX DOLLARS) to various programs in my tenure as Sheriff, all of which provided opportunities that would not have otherwise been available to folks, or the projects enhanced law enforcement in this community. These programs were diverse in both their neighborhoods and the target audiences. But all were focused on building a better community for our citizens, especially our youth, through programs, projects, and activities that enriched lives and offered healthy alternatives to bad and dangerous choices. Of all my accomplishments, I think directing seized drug money into prevention and intervention projects focused on youth has been one of my most rewarding activities.

Given the life experiences of every single police officer I can tell you this: we will always try to help. We are the crusaders for a better path. It’s ingrained in who we are. Many of us became law enforcement or corrections professionals because of a caring adult or a mentor or teacher who told us about these options – who sent us to a military recruiter or a police recruiter. I don’t know many police or corrections officers in this agency who are not committed family men or women; engaged in their community through volunteerism; practicing their religion; devoted to instilling good values and beliefs in their children by setting a good example; mentoring; serving on boards; coaching ball; sitting in the stands cheering on a gymnast or soccer player; participating in a charity walk or run; the list goes on and on. Your JSO is an organization made up of 3,000 men and women who are a part of the fabric of this community. You can be proud of them, as I am. It has been my great honor to lead them and call them my brothers and sisters for 40 years.

“Success” is a subjective term. I don’t believe it is a label that we should strive to give ourselves. I think it is a characterization best left to others. I’d much prefer to be known as an honest man; a good leader; and a true friend. In the coming months the Lord will reveal to me his next plan for me, and I hope that I can continue in the calling I feel for public service. In the meantime, please know that I leave this agency in the most capable hands and have dutifully carried the mantle for our continued legacy as an agency that is Worthy of Trust; Always Improving; With Respect for Each Other and Community Focused.


John H. Rutherford, Sheriff

This story was originally published online from the Jacksonville Times Union. See original post here