Action News Jax talks one-on-one with first Black female JSO sheriff candidate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville sheriff’s Race is two years away, but there is already one candidate who has confidently stepped up to the plate: Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Lakesha Burton.

Action News Jax is the first station Chief Burton is talking to since she filed for office.

Sheriff Mike Williams’ term wraps-up in June 2023. He can not run again, because he will have reached his term limit.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole spoke to Burton about her participation in the historic race in the Jacksonville and the pivotal moment that changed the path of her journey.

The gym at the Police Athletic League on West 33rd Street may just look like an ordinary gym to you...but this is where everything changed for Assistant Chief Lakesha Burton.

“I came to PAL as a result of a police officer seeing more in me, than I saw in myself. And instead of taking me to the juvenile detention facility, he brought me to the Police Athletic League,” Burton explained as a young mother she was in survival mode. “And I remember I went into a store to steal some baby food and Pampers and a police officer…that’s when I first encountered a police officer,” the Assistant Chief told Cole.

Before Burton could meet the officer who would change her life, she had to face some pretty tough challenges.

“Being sexually abused, promiscuity, teenage mother, consuming drugs, alcohol, being consumed with depression and hopelessness. When I look at where I was then and where I’ve come and how successful my life has been, it really reaffirms to me that I’m resilient,” Burton said with a heart full of gratitude.

And now she’s ready to take on the challenge of running for sheriff of Jacksonville.

When Cole asked when she knew she wanted to run for sheriff, Chief Burton replied introspectively—sharing a moment that really stayed with her.

“Yeah, so honestly it wasn’t until last year— last year was a very critical time for all of us and especially for law enforcement. It wasn’t until the very first night that we had our civil unrest. I was out there boots on the ground, standing next to the men and women in blue. I remember very vividly standing at the front, with our field force. And I was looking in the eyes of people who were angry and hurt. And I just remember particularly looking into a young lady’s eyes and I saw myself. But when she looked at me, she looked at me as if I was the enemy. It was the first time that I realized that I was both black and blue. I felt like the Black community was like, ‘No, you’re with us’ and the Blue, ‘You’re with us.’ And I finally made a decision that night and I said, look, I don’t have to choose. I’m proud to be both black and blue.”

Burton told Cole it’s a conversation she’s been having that she knows can be uncomfortable for some. Ultimately, she believes we all have to become more comfortable with these conversations , because that’s the foundation for growth.

But she knows her work to help bridge the gap is just beginning.

“I’m just grateful that I’m here today. And it took people like, you know, a police officer [who] brought me to PAL. It took a support system at home, and took people at my school, it took the church. So we got to get back to that— all these different stakeholders coming together and really wrapping around services and love and support around individuals,” Burton said.

Burton has more than 20 years of experience, which includes but is not limited to: patrol officer, as a detective, school resource officer, zone commander and now assistant chief.

“This job—it’s a calling. What I have learned over the years is that the community is the customer and we work for the community. And customer service is so very important and people matter. So I take service, no matter where I work, no matter how high I go and rank— people deserve good police service. So I’ve been really intentional about doing that and really modeling that behavior with my officers,” Burton said.

Burton is also JSO’s:

  • Fourth black female police sergeant, second black female lieutenant, and the fourth black female assistant chief to earn that rank in JSO’s history.
  • She was the first woman appointed to run the Police Athletic League of Jacksonville in its 45-year history.

Stay with Action News Jax for the latest coverage on sheriff’s race as we wait to learn who else will file to run for the position.