Lakesha Burton wants to be Jacksonville's first Black female sheriff. Five insights from her personnel file.

Plus: The Tributary's next big steps to launch

The Tributary, as part of its role watchdogging the coming 2023 local elections, intends to request personnel files for all candidates for Jacksonville Sheriff. We paid $222 to receive the personnel file for Lakesha Burton, the first declared candidate. The following is not intended to be a fully comprehensive profile, but some of the first insights gleaned from Burton’s personnel file. You can view the complete file here: https://tinyurl.com/LakeshaBurton

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 to her decision to run for sheriff.

She has said that being Black and a police officer could help bridge a relationship between Black people and police officers.

“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:

  • 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 has five children. In her 22-year career, she has worked in patrol, community affairs and recruiting divisions, as well as the field training unit. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 in 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.”

Contact Uriel J. García at urieljgarcia@gmail.com.

This story is published through a partnership between WJCT News and The Tributary.

The Tributary can now accept tax-deductible donations

Andrew Pantazi | The last few weeks have been busy for us at The Tributary.

We officially filed our paperwork to incorporate, we submitted our request for tax-exempt status with the IRS, and we opened our Vystar Credit Union account.

This means we’re able to begin accepting donations. We’ll soon move off of Substack where subscriptions are not tax-deductible. We’re working to get our website and donation page launched in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for that.

If you just absolutely can’t wait to be the first donor, then you can make a check to The Tributary.

Mail to:

The Tributary

Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

112 West Adams Street 4th Floor

Jacksonville, Florida 32202

I wanted to thank all of you who’ve helped us get to this place by subscribing on Substack. We will fully launch as an organization later this summer, debuting our first investigations on our coming website.

In the meantime, one of the best ways you can support The Tributary is by taking a few minutes and fill out this survey. This will help us understand what news we need to cover as we staff up in the coming months.

The Tributary and WJCT’s partnership

Andrew Pantazi | We always planned for The Tributary to work in close collaboration with existing media in Jacksonville, and we’re excited to announce that we were able to work on today’s insights from Burton’s personnel file with WJCT, the only other nonprofit news source in Jacksonville.

As we hire staff and prepare to launch, we intend to develop even deeper ties with WJCT and other media partners. Local news is in a crisis, but through collaboration, The Tributary and other local media have a chance to preserve the journalism that serves as a cornerstone of democracy.

If you aren’t already, consider becoming a WJCT sustainer.

The Times-Union’s recent hires

Andrew Pantazi | If you haven’t seen, The Florida Times-Union made two recent hires, opinion and engagement editor Marcia Pledger and justice reporter Katherine Lewin.

Give both of them a welcome, and if you’re on Twitter, follow their accounts as they bring more life to the Times-Union.

Since Gannett purchased the Times-Union in 2017, only one other journalist had been hired at the paper, while 40 staffers had departed, so it’s heartening to hear the Times-Union is now looking to hire four more journalists: a photographer, a growth and development reporter, a high school sports reporter and a government accountability reporter.

This is great news for Jacksonville, and I’m looking forward to seeing their work.