Four Florida sheriffs, including Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, threw their support behind gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis at the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum Tuesday morning.
The group of sheriffs touted the Republican candidate as a former prosecutor who supports law enforcement and criticized his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
Sheriff Billy Woods, of Marion County; Sheriff Dennis Lemma, of Seminole County; and Sheriff Rick Staly, of Flagler County, stood alongside Ivey as they gave their endorsements.
“Ron Desantis has made it very clear throughout his career ... that he is going to stand with law enforcement and he has our back,” Ivey said.
Desantis spoke about the importance of economic and environmental issues to the state of Florida, but said those issues become secondary if high crime rates discourage people from living here.
"If you don't have public safety and you don't have safe communities then a lot of that stuff doesn't quite matter as much to the families who don't feel safe," Desantis said.
Tallahassee's crime rate under Gillum also came under scrutiny during the event.
"Florida outside of Tallahassee has seen a decline in crime over the last several decades," Desantis said, adding that Gillum's record on crime in his city has been an "utter failure."
Statistics from the Uniform Crime Report show that Tallahassee and Leon County have maintained steadily higher crime rates over the last several years compared to a declining state average.
Gillum himself has been endorsed by several sheriffs, including Walt McNeil, of Leon County; Sheriff Sadie Darnell, of Alachua County; Sheriff Russell Gibson, of Osceola County; Sheriff Morris Young, of Gadsden County; and former Orange County sheriff and current mayor-elect Jerry Demings.
The sheriffs and Desantis also criticized Gillum's alliance with the Dream Defenders, an organization of "black, immigrant and poor young people" that promotes reallocating public funds from police and prisons to education and social welfare programs.
Signs quoting the Dream Defenders on either side of the podium read, "Police and prisons have no place in justice" and "Police were never meant to protect and serve me and you." The group claims police and prisons are meant to separate the haves from the have-nots, Florida Today reported.
"I fear that his policies, if implemented, his attitude of being hostile to law enforcement, if that were allowed to carry the day, we would have less safe communities in the state of Florida," Desantis said. "That is not something you can take for granted."
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