Lakesha Burton, a 22-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, is the first candidate to announce a run to replace current Sheriff Mike Williams. If elected, Burton, a Democrat and current assistant chief at the sheriff’s office, would be the first Black woman to lead the office.
Across the country there are few Black police chiefs or sheriffs and even fewer Black women leading law-enforcement agencies.
After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, police departments have come under scrutiny by the public for police shootings and officers’ use of force. Burton has said the mass protests against police brutality led her to run.
She has said that being Black and a police officer could help bridge a relationship between the two groups.
“I want to challenge the perception that it’s us against them,” Burton said in a statement emailed to The Tributary. “I know most people want justice and public safety. The idea that we have to choose between these is a false choice. I will prove that as Jacksonville’s next sheriff.”
The election isn’t until 2023, when Williams will have to step down because of term limits.
In her two-decade career, Burton rose through the ranks. Here are five biographical points in her life based on some public statements she’s made and her personnel file released by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office through a public records request:
1. She began her career as a patrol officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1999. Known then as Lakesha Anderson, she married her husband Gregory Burton, also a JSO officer, in 2008. He retired as a chief in 2020, and the couple have five children. In her 22-year career she has worked in patrol, community affairs and recruiting divisions, as well as the field training unit.
2. She is a sexual abuse survivor. At 15-years-old, she said, she got pregnant so that her stepfather would stop raping her. During her high-school years, she began to use drugs and alcohol to alleviate the depression she suffered.
3. As a teenage mom, she was shoplifting diapers and baby food for her son when an officer apprehended her. The officer, instead of booking her into jail, took her to the Police Athletic League of Jacksonville, a nonprofit afterschool program led by the Sheriff’s Office that helps youth focus on sports and extracurricular activities. In 2015, Burton became executive director for the nonprofit.
4. According to her personnel file, her bosses were happy with how she ran the nonprofit, saying she promoted its services to news organizations and maintained a high student attendance. The personnel file also included letters from crime victims who thanked Burton and some of her colleagues for responding to their calls.
5. Her employee reviews were mostly positive. Her bosses would say she met or exceeded standards during her career. But according to a October 2019 evaluation Burton and a supervisor “discussed a formal investigation involving multiple officers under her command that was managed improperly.”
The evaluation doesn’t give any other details regarding this incident. But Burton responded to the evaluation saying: “The alleged mismanagement stemmed from me not being aware of additional information added to the investigative packet and the Lieutenant intentionally and deceitfully withholding information and submitting an official document of the findings to (internal affairs) without my knowledge, consent or signature.”
This story is published through a partnership between WJCT News and The Tributary. The Tributary, as part of its role watchdogging the coming 2023 local elections, intends to request personnel files for all candidates for Jacksonville Sheriff and paid $222 to receive the personnel file for Lakesha Burton, the first declared candidate. View the complete file here.