A day after a video featuring Clay Clounty Sheriff Darryl Daniels informing would-be rioters and looters that he was prepared to deputize armed citizens to keep the peace garnered national attention, the sheriff clarified his comments in an interview with a local television station. Daniels says he’s not giving the green light to vigilantes, but rather wanted to send a message to those intent on destruction to keep away from Clay County.
“Everyone bears a responsibility to keep their community safe,” Daniels said.
Daniels says he posted this video in response to constituents asking how he would handle rioters.
“That does not give anybody the authority or autonomy to do anything independently,“ Daniels said. “If I need help from a citizen then I’m going to ask for that help.”
As I pointed out in our coverage yesterday, Daniels is a first-term sheriff who’s up for re-election this year, and is facing a crowded primary field. When he was asked, however, if the video was a political stunt, as one of his opponents alleges, Daniels vehemently disagreed with the premise.
“It has nothing to do with campaigning,” Daniels said. “The people don’t pay me to campaign. They pay me to keep them safe and by God that’s what I have done and what I’ll continue to do.”
I’m sure that Daniels has at least one eye on the upcoming primary election in September, but I’m not sure I’d call this a campaign stunt. Actually deputizing gun owners in the absence of unrest or looting would certainly qualify, but warning would-be rioters and looters of the potential consequences of their actions isn’t an unreasonable step to take.
Still, there are critics of the sheriff’s position, including Mark Baughman, a former police officer who spoke to First Coast News about his objections.
“There are other actions you can take than deputizing every law-abiding gun owner,” Baughman said. “Then they feel like they’re emboldened to take some action and that can potentially lead to violent action that could hurt them or someone else.”
Baughman says he also believes we should support our law enforcement in violent situations—but there are so many resources available that shouldn’t make it necessary to ask for citizens’ help.
“We have mutual aid with all of these other sheriff’s offices, adjoining counties,” Baughman said. “Enact the National Guard, there are so many other options than saying you’re going to deputize people.”
It’s not up to the sheriff to activate the National Guard, of course. That would be a decision that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would have to make. As for mutual aid with other local departments, I’m sure that was the case in Minneapolis, Seattle, Madison, and other cities where law enforcement have seemingly been overwhelmed or unable to deal with widespread rioting and destruction in recent weeks.
It seems to me that Sheriff Daniels was talking about deputizing gun owners as a measure of last resort, not a first option if things start to go sideways in Clay County. I doubt it will come to pass, but if we do start seeing armed citizens sworn in as deputies, I’m guessing it’s not going happen because of any peaceful protests or the exercise of anyone’s First Amendment rights.