Lake County Sgt. Fred Jones uses voice, not force to humanize the badge
Meet the Public Information Officer for Lake County Sheriff’s Office
LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – You may have seen Sgt. Fred Jones on News 6 or read his name in a ClickOrlando.com article. He is a Public Information Officer for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, but he does more than protect and serve his community. Sometimes he’s jumping out of airplanes, running marathons, or DJ’ing a wedding.
In honor of Black History Month, News 6 wanted to introduce our viewers to Sgt. Jones and share his mission to humanize the badge.
Jones said he found his calling when he learned about an opportunity to become a School Resource Deputy and could serve as a positive influence in children's' lives.
"It was never my goal to get into law enforcement," Jones said.
He describes an early interaction with law enforcement as "scary." During a Ted Talk in Eustis in January 2019, Jones shared a personal story of when he was stopped by police while out on run. He was 17 at the time and officers said he fit the description of a suspect who broke into a woman's home.
The officers took Jones to the victim's house and asked her if Jones was the suspect.
"I was thinking to myself, 'I'm about to go to jail for something I didn't do,'" Jones recalled during his Ted Talk.
The victim did not identify Jones as the suspect. The officers dropped him off where they picked him up along his run and left.
"It was scary because of the unknown. That interaction to this day reminds me to communicate openly and honestly with those we interact with," Jones said.
Jones said that is how he handles every call, story, and assignment he covers. He said actively listening is one of his greatest qualities. He encourages officers to use their voice instead of force during situations.
"I've de-escalated a lot of incidents by being present and listening," he said.
Jones started his career at the Lake County Jail in 1997. He worked on the Uniformed Patrol Unit, the School Resource Unit, the Narcotics Unit, and currently serves as a Public Information Officer and supervisor in the Professional Standards Bureau.
"One of the best parts about being a Public Information Officer is the opportunity to humanize the badge. When I was a young man, I thought that all cops did were put people in jail," Jones said. "I do want to continue building a positive relationship between law enforcement and the communities we serve. This position allows me to be transparent when it comes to our department, the good and the not so good at times."
Jones also teaches at the academy. He said it's a great opportunity to address stereotypes and pass on the knowledge he's obtained during his more than two decades of experience.
"When I am approached by a young person interested in a career in law enforcement, I ask them a simple question. 'Why do you want to be in this career?'" Jones said. "If a person joins for the wrong reason it most likely will not work out long-term."
During his career, Jones has watched tensions rise between law enforcement and citizens. He said during a time with so much mistrust, it's important for all law enforcement agencies to build relationships with the people they serve.
"Community policing must become a mindset and not just a unit within a department," he said. "We should interact with the community, let them get to know us prior to receiving a call for service and responding to a location. At the same time, the community and religious leaders should help bridge the relationship as well."
While he goes by Sgt. Jones at work, he also answers to the name DJ Chocolate Thunder. Jones said he wanted to become a DJ after attending a wedding in 1999 that had a horrible DJ.
"I said to myself, 'I can do this!' I did my research and the rest is history," Jones said.
Jones DJs at weddings, events for the sheriff's office, and at local schools. He said he picked his DJ name out of respect for legendary NBA star Daryl Dawkins. His passion for music started at a young age.
"I grew up listening to all types of music," Jones said. "When I was very young my father was a truck driver and mechanic. While riding with him we listened to artists like Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Cash, Mel Tillis and other country artists."
If he's not spinning the turntables, Jones enjoys jumping out of airplanes.
"I am a fan of skydiving. No better feeling than the free fall," he said.
Jones said he loves being out in nature. He's an avid reader and currently working on a children's book. He also enjoys traveling.
Jones continues to run. He said he has participated in several half-marathons, a full marathon, and many 5K and 10K races.
In 2012 while training for his second marathon, Jones said he thought he strained a muscle. He was sent to an orthopedic surgeon who said his right hip would need to be replaced and his left hip would need to be replaced three years later.
"I was also advised that I would not be able to work as a law enforcement officer and the side effects could be a significant limp or an overall unsuccessful surgery," Jones said.
Jones said through hard work and perseverance, he made it back to the career he loves. He believes adversity has helped define the person he has become.
“Obstacles do not have to be a landing pad. They can be a launching pad toward a new direction in life and career,” he said.
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