Darryl Daniels is an African American man.
And a father.
And the sheriff of Clay County.
In today’s social climate, it’s not easy to be any one of those.
As a father, he understands the frustration by the lack of reform and growing disconnect between law enforcement and its communities.
As a lawman, he still expects everyone, including his deputies, to still respect law and order.
It’s a fine line few could fathom.
“We can’t be so prideful in law enforcement to think we have everything together,” Daniels said. “We don’t. People also have to understand that law enforcement are members of the same community. Good guys, bad guys, it’s the same melting pot. But we can’t lose sight of our responsibilities and treat people like they’re objects.”
Like most, Daniels was appalled by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while he was in custody. He’s watched the video and can’t find any reasonable explanation – as a man, father or sheriff – why officer Derek Chauvin literally choked the life out of Floyd with his knee.
The images, and the national outrage that followed, was expected.
“When I look at the Minneapolis incident, I still can’t believe or understand why the guy was removed from the vehicle once he was placed in handcuffs and put inside the police vehicle,” Daniels said. “If he was under arrest, why wasn’t he just taken to jail like we would normally expect for a prisoner. For whatever reasons he was removed from the vehicle. I don’t know. That question begs for an answer.”
Daniels said marches, protests and rioting aren’t a solution. He believes it simply serves as an outlet to vent years, if not generations, of injustice.
“People who march are marching because they’re frustrated about what they’ve seen. I really believe they feel they don’t have a voice that anyone is going to hear. Collectively, they believe their voice is going to be heard,” he said.
“This protest feels different than any that I’ve seen in the past. People are just up to their neck with the way they get treated sometimes by law enforcement. Is there room for law enforcement reformation? Absolutely.”
Solutions won’t be found in rhetoric, Daniels said. It will come when law enforcement, community leaders and residents work together to create common ground. And both sides need to be willing to listen.
“I take exception to leaders in the community who do nothing more than raise their voices and/or march. There’s no solution in that,” he said. “I can raise my voice all day long, ‘no justice, no peace,’ but that doesn’t solve the problem. How do you solve a mathematical problem? You can scream: ‘no justice, no peace’ all day long at a mathematical problem that requires a solution and you won’t find that solution. You won’t find a solution to a mathematical problem by taking a knee. You won’t solve a mathematical problem, or any other problem in the world, by marching.
“But I understand the reasoning behind it – it’s frustration. I’m speaking about leaders. A leader leads. Leaders don’t follow. They take the high road and they develop solutions to existing problems by taking recommendations, and they move forward to solve it.”
Daniels has organized “Talking for A Change” gathering on June 25 at the CenterPoint Baptist Church, 1650 Blanding Blvd., in Middleburg from 7-9 p.m. He’s eager to share ideas with elected officials, clergy, local leaders, students and everyone else to close the divide between the police and the community.
The first step will be to break down the “us versus them” environment.
“I want to be part of that conversation. I invite the community to come together,” Daniels said. “Matter of fact, I challenge them – not to protest, but to let their voices be heard. Come with recommendations. You know what the problems are. Come with some solutions. Help fix what’s going on.”